Deliveryman Dale DeBacco is slightly winded as he returns to Dynasty Coffee headquarters with a few minutes to spare before closing time.

He quickly explains to his two partners why he’s running a little off schedule and they all begin cleaning up the area after a tough morning’s work.

It’s time for the three owners to leave the business world and attend their high school classes.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it,” student Phil Rulli said as he wiped down the counter. “It’s made us want to get something going and start our own business after high school.”

He pauses for a second and looks around the small concession stand.

“Well, maybe not in the coffee business,” he said with a slight laugh.

DeBacco, Rulli and their business partner Darren Robbins are all seniors in Derek Zimmerman’s entrepreneur class at Niagara Falls High School. The popular course — enrollment has grown from about a dozen two years ago to 70 this year — allows students to create their own business and operate it for real.

“They’re learning how to develop a business plan and how to be resourceful,” Zimmerman said. “They’re building a work ethic, responsibility and trust.”

Each student or team is given $100 in seed money, which comes from a grant, to begin their business. Before that happens, however, they have to present a business plan and fill out an application.

“We’re trying to make this as real as possible,” said Joseph Bellonte, a teacher on special assignment at the high school who also serves as the business program coordinator.

This year’s business concepts ranged from Dynasty Coffee to a one-student photography service.

”Maybe they won’t all be business owners some day, but because of this course, they’re all going to be better employees,” Bellonte said.

Once the business is approved and started, students are responsible for paying back the $100 seed money and their expenses. After that, they get to keep all of the profits.

Dynasty Coffee sells about 100 hot beverages a day — they offer coffee, hot tea, cappuccino and hot chocolate — but the three owners and Bellonte declined to say how much money each student is making.

“It’s enough to make them keep doing it,” Bellonte joked.

He added it’s not all about the money. The students are getting valuable experience in learning how to deal with the ups and downs of running their own business. For example, Dynasty Coffee had been operating at a popular spot inside the high school earlier this year, but had to relocate because it was causing traffic problems in the hallways.

“We went from making a lot of money to making none,” Rulli said.

Instead of giving up, the trio put what they learned in marketing class the previous year to good use. A coupon for a free coffee was placed in every teacher’s mail box and the business started offering deliveries right to the classroom. Now located in the concession stand next to the Performing Arts Center inside the high school, the business is open daily from 7 to 8:15 a.m.

“It’s fabulous,” said Dave Brooks, a school librarian who is one of Dynasty’s best customers. “It’s very convenient, the kids deliver it to you hot and the coffee tastes good.”

Rulli, Robbins and DeBacco have set up an account with Kimmins Coffee and Water to supply the beverages.

“They call up and order and they’re treated as adults,” Bellonte said. “This particular group has really gone above and beyond. They even researched the possible effects of caffeine before starting the business.”

The majority of Dynasty Coffee’s customers are teachers, but the business also sells a lot of hot chocolate to students.

“Everyone knows us,” Robbins said.

Bellonte believes the trio, under the guidance of Zimmerman, have a shot to expand on their business following graduation. In fact, he pointed out that’s one of the main missions behind the course.

“We’re really trying to grow Niagara’s future business leaders,” Bellonte said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we can take the city back, one kidbiz at a time.”

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