Seventh-graders turn projects into businessesBy BUSTER WOLFE,
Thirteen Benedict Day School seventh-graders have spent the past few months putting their ideas into practice. Now, they are practicing their roles as young entrepreneurs by turning those projects into marketable products and services.
Teacher Trent Holliman, who considers himself more of a facilitator for the Projects Class, said the four business projects that the students developed are the biggest ones of the year.
“We wanted to make it as authentic as possible, not one that would last a couple of days,” he said. “They worked on it in class for a month. Then they had an investors’ meeting; we actually had parents and people from the community come in. They pitched their ideas, they sought out investments and they got a little investment for advertising and buying materials. Now they are actually putting all their plans into motion and trying to get a little income. Some of them have already been pretty successful at it.”
For some project teams, “successful” means selling out of products.
The four projects that the students have developed include “Bring it Back,” a retro memorabilia product box; “Fun & Done,” a kid-based party planning service; “The Comfort Box,” a product-based relaxation kit; and “Backpack Station,” a service that coordinates students’ backpacks with class requirements.
Holliman said the students used critical thinking and social skills to work on the projects.
“I like that they each came up with different ideas, and they have worked really well together, giving each other ideas and critiquing each other’s business plans,” he said. “Even though they are different teams, I have been super proud of their cooperation as well. So, our plan is that on Monday or Friday, they are going to work on their businesses. The rest of the week, we are going to move on to different projects for the rest of the year.”
Creating the projects also involved deciding what would be sellable, Holliman said.
“A really cool thing about this activity is seeing how they put themselves in the mindset of their potential customers,” he said. “Not only is it teaching them business skills, but it is also teaching them how to put themselves in other people’s shoes. It makes them think, ‘Hey, what are things people are looking for in products?’ It is a bit of a socioeconomic study.”
Annabelle Thrush, of the “Bring it Back” team, said the box is designed to spur memories and introduce younger customers to recent history. Other team members are Alleigh Johnson and Regan Cochran.
“Our goal is to bring back the trends of yesterday with today’s youth,” she said. “The things we do monthly, but it’s more like a couple of weeks. We did our first box and it was the 1990s. It had Beanie Babies, baseball cards, candy cigarettes and other things. It had everything from the 1990s that was popular. Our next box is the ’80s and we haven’t looked into a lot yet. It will have Garbage Pail Kids; that was one my uncle requested. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we sold baseball cards.”
Holliman said the project reinvigorated the trading aspect.
“They have been selling baseball cards at snacktime,” he said. “Their idea was such a good idea because it appealed to parents as well. It gave them an opportunity to share their interest with their children. That was their big selling point to the investors because, yes, it would be an enjoyable thing for the children, but it would also be a way for the parents to connect to their kids.”
With “Fun & Done,” Riley Hollis said her team has already planned a successful party. Lillie Bertram and Simon Cooper are also team members.
“We recently planned a party with a MasterChef theme for Cade (Ortego, a current Hattiesburg contestant on MasterChef Junior),” Hollis said. “We had the decorations and gave party favors.”
Holliman said the first party was successful.
“They did the whole party planning and came up with the whole decorations,” he said. “It turned out really, really well, and I was really proud of them. That was their first big party that they planned.”
The “Fun & Done” team has a different view of parties, Holliman said.
“Their big thing about ‘Fun & Done’ is they want parents to understand that rather than an adult think about what a kid wants, they can bring that kid perspective to planning parties,” he said. “Right now, they are just focusing on parents and families that are associated with the school. Eventually, I think they want to branch out and grow their business in the community.”
Hollis said the next party is planned for Benedict Day School students.
“Right now, we are planning a Star Wars May 4th party: ‘May the Fourth Be With You,’” she said. “We’re having it here at school, and we are going to charge anyone who wants to come to it.”
The party will be a fundraiser, Holliman said.
“One thing I told them is ‘Guys, the money that you make is your money; you don’t have to donate it,’” he said. “Because they are holding it at the school, they are going to give a portion of their profit to the school.”
Holliman said he was impressed with “Fun & Done.”
“I’m really excited about them because I really invested in their business,” he said. “I wanted to invest in everyone’s business, but some of these people were kind of stingy. They didn’t want to sell off a lot of their company; they wanted to keep as much as they could once they got their initial investment.”
For “The Comfort Box,” customers have different options for each box, Anderson Bedwell said. She is on the team with Myers Foxworth, Evan Brewer and Mackenzie Bystrek.
“The Comfort Box is a box that we sell, and it has many relaxing items in it,” Bedwell said. We have three boxes and a comfort bag. We sell our own essential oil spray that we made ourselves. We have a five-item box, a seven-item box and a Special Edition box. We also have our own Comfort Bag that only has three items.”
The seven-item box has all of the items in it: fuzzy socks, a facemask, bath balm, candle, two or three gel pens, a notebook and essential oils. Our five-item box has everything but the fuzzy socks and essential oils. The Special Edition box has six items in it and you can pick which items you want. You also get a personal card; the customer will tell us what they want us to write on it. The Comfort Bag has a facemask, a bath balm and a candle.
Holliman said “The Comfort Box” team has a good problem.
“I asked them to bring in some of these to show, but they have a good problem,” he said. “They have sold out of all of their products, and this group is taking pre-orders for even more. Mother’s Day is going to be huge day for these guys, so they are getting geared up for that.”
Team members Maura McLaughlin, Jake Antinnes and Julianna Quattrocchi said their “Backpack Station” project helps kids and parents.
“Basically, parents can sign their kid for a monthly subscription,” Quattrocchi said. “The first week is free, so they can have a trial. We find the kids, bring them and organize their backpacks to make sure they don’t leave lunchboxes or jackets or anything at school. It saves the parents money so that the kids don’t leave a $50 jacket at school.”
The subscription service is $30 a month. The team resupplies their backpacks and goes to the teachers and make sure they everything they need for class.
“Their big idea right now is to a test run for our school,” Holliman said. “So, this limits them to the end of the year at this school. One thing I told these guys is ‘Hey, try it out for this year; try your businesses. You might want to keep it going.’ I think a lot of them are trying to see how they can expand it next year.”
Holliman said the class received some business advice from a group of savvy investors.
“We did actually watch a couple of episodes of ‘Shark Tank’ just to give them an idea of what that investors’ day was going to be like,” he said. “They went beyond that because they wrote very detailed business plans; I really pushed them on that. They probably averaged about three or four pages on their business plans. They made charts and graphs about expected profits; they impressed me and I was very happy.”
Success in the class is not measured in gains or losses, Holliman said.
“ This class isn’t about whether you fail or succeed,” he said. “It’s about pushing yourself to achieve something that you didn’t think you were going to be able to achieve. I think when they take a step back and look at what they have done with their businesses, they are going to be extremely proud of themselves.”
Holliman said anyone who is interested in getting more information about the project can contact him at email@example.com or (601) 450-4413.