CANANDAIGUA — Students at St. Mary’s School recently took a crash course in entrepreneurship, forming groups and developing their own small businesses. They had a chance to showcase their work and sell their company’s products and services Nov. 5 during the school’s 4th Annual Youth Enterprise Business Day.
That night, parents and St. Mary’s parishioners were invited to browse in the school gymnasium, where the young entrepreneurs offered everything from nachos, smoothies and salads to slime, sun catchers and used books. Some booths featured handmade jewelry and hair scrunchies, while at other booths customers could play a ball-toss game or a hole of miniature golf.
The students had been preparing for this day since the beginning of the school year, according to Terri Haley, a member of the Business Day planning committee. Students in kindergarten through third grade formed class businesses, and students in the older grades broke into small groups to create their businesses, Haley said.
Before launching their companies, students decided what services or products to offer, researched how much supplies would cost and how much they’d have to charge in order to make a profit. Students then had to create their own business plans and marketing materials, sharpening their business, math and writing skills in the process, Haley added. Parents are involved in the project as well, with one parent mentor for each student-run business.
“It’s a great project. They have a little bit of everything,” Haley said. “The kids are having fun with it.”
The Business Day project is not a required part of the school’s curriculum, she said. Student participation is completely voluntary, and all the work for the event is completed after school and on weekends. This year, 98 percent of the student body decided to participate in the project, she added.
Students donate 10 percent of their Business Day profits to the charity of their choice, and the remaining money is used to help fund class field trips and activities, Haley said.
Fourth-grader Joshua Swartzman, who ran a nacho stand called The Nachos’en Spot, decided on the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center as his chosen charity. Both of his parents have been involved with the VA, and his mother was deployed to Fort Jackson in South Carolina a month ago. Joshua said he decided to run a nacho stand because it was something that no one else was doing.
Seventh-graders Jared Rex and Emily Bellavia chose to donate a portion of the funds from their Wing Dings House of Face Painting to St. Mary’s Food Cupboard.
At their booth, sixth-graders Megan Keating and Stephanie Smith sold used clothing. When Megan and Stephanie began talking about what sort of business to open, they realized they both had a lot of clothes they’d outgrown. They sent a letter home to parents requesting used-clothing donations and ended up with “more clothes than we thought we’d get,” Stephanie said. They planned to donate any clothes that didn’t sell to those in need, Megan added.
Seventh-grader Melody York sold colorfully wrapped packages of homemade chocolate candy.
“I decided to do candy because when my mother was getting married, I melted the chocolate” for the favors, Melody said.
Melting all the chocolate into different shapes and molds took about a week, she said. Melody, who sold homemade bread at last year’s Business Day, said her favorite part of the event is meeting all the people who come to her booth.
Fourth-graders Abbie Gillespie and Sarah Haley were the first entrepreneurs most people saw as they came into the gym. Abbie and Sarah met potential customers at the door, offering to check their coats for 50 cents and selling paper shopping bags for $1. At last year’s Business Day, it was hot in the gym and people just threw their coats in a pile on the bleachers, Sarah said. The girls realized that they could make a profit and help people by checking their coats and hanging them up neatly on a rack.
Once they had decided what service to offer, the girls started working out the details of their business.
“I went over to my friend’s house and we thought up a name and we made up the bags,” Abbie said.
The girls’ love of cats led them to name their business Kitty’s Koat Check, attach cat pictures to their shopping bags and donate a portion of their profits to the Ontario County Humane Society.