The businesswomen and businessmen of the future took their first steps into the marketplace last week at the Lake Cowichan School’s third annual entrepreneur fair, hosted by Cindy Olson’s Grade 4/5 class in the school gymnasium.
Turnout was impressive, with most of the students’ products — everything from bracelets to Christmas ornaments to chapstick — selling out within the first half hour.
“We’re very well supported by the community,” said Olson. “Grandparents show up, aunts, uncles, my own children come. The students from the school come.”
Items sold for between $1 and $5, with the goal of making everything affordable and because this assignment is about more than the bottom line.
“It’s about learning the steps to running a business,” said Olson.
The program, which runs throughout much of the fall semester, aims to help the kids develop a range of skills: setting realistic goals, using their creative writing skills when coming up with product descriptions, and putting together a business plan, which they hand it when the fair is over.
There is also an emphasis on what might be considered corporate social responsibility as the students are required to donate at least 10 per cent of their profits to one of three charities: the BC SPCA, the Canadian Cancer Society or BC Children’s Hospital.
The students also typically learn about startup loans — money they borrow from their parents in order to get the materials for their products. At the end of the day, that money is paid back before profits are totalled.
“Also [they’re developing] communication skills and the confidence to talk to adults, to believe in your product and sell it, it’s huge,” said Olson. “And then they go spend their money.”
Josephine Kuta made 20 dreamcatchers of various sizes, selling them for between $2 and $4. Before the end of the day, she’d sold all but two.
“I used wool, beads, feathers and string and some branches from my yard and from trails,” she said. “My favourite part was making them, [especially] right here in the middle of the dreamcatcher where the bead is. It was fun to learn how to make it.” Kuta’s advice for next year’s students: “Get ready early because it comes real soon.”
Megan Bell’s business “Terrific Table Decorations” was equally successful.
“They’re decorations that go on a table, like a centrepiece,” she said. “They’re made from reusable tea cups, and they’ve got cedar in them, they need to be watered once every three days but they only get a little bit of water.”
Bell also had some hanging decorations, which were hot commodities, selling out very quickly.
The most challenging part for her wasn’t on the production end of the business, it was transportation.
“The hardest part was actually getting them to school,” she said. “I had to carry a big box of them.”