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Youth entrepreneurs bring their products to market

Youth entrepreneurs bring their products to market

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Stevensville High School students in Jacki Bauman’s entrepreneurship class are selling their handmade items online between now and April 16.

Each semester students in grades 9-12 can take the class that focuses on building a business based on products that they make in class and then sell. The class is funded through a nonprofit called Youth Entrepreneurs, an organization that works to bridge the gap between book learning and application by providing curriculum, activities and funding to get kids started.

“The main goal for Youth Entrepreneurs is getting kids experience,” Bauman said. “They want kids to be able to go through creating their product, marketing their product, selling their product and actually work to make a profit.”

She said the Youth Entrepreneurs program is used by many schools in Montana and across the country.

In the entrepreneur class, students learn to turn an idea into a business.

Bauman focuses on teaching students to recognize a business opportunity and then how to start, operate and maintain a business. Students develop a business plan including organizational structure, financing, operations, marketing and human resources. They learn accounting, business management, managing information, legal requirements and economic environments.

In the process, students learn critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and innovation.

Bauman said some of her students will continue their business even after her class is over.

“Not all my kids will continue their business as it is, but they’ll learn to change it up to move forward,” she said. “We’ll also talk about Etsy and some of those sites they can work with their parents. Most of my students are not 18 and this gives them a way to continue.”

The main reasons to have the class are life preparation and learning skills for entering the workforce.

“We’re teaching basic soft skills that everyone should have, like can you think outside the box and show creativity and problem-solve,” Bauman said. “We teach leadership, time management, teamwork and communication. No matter what they do in the future they’ll have the skills that every business needs to run. It gives them background knowledge.”

Bauman said that the entrepreneur class serves as a pathway for students interested in a business career.

“For others, this gives them something they created on their own and were proud of,” Bauman said. “Deadlines are also important and kids learn time management and how to adjust their time. We also talk about breaking down prices and researching material costs.”

One exercise has students creating something then developing a marketing slogan for the item.

“The challenge is ‘can you describe your product through words,’ learning to communicate,” Bauman said.

The SHS Entrepreneur site has each student’s company name, logos, products and prices.

Usually, each school hosts an actual in-person market day, like a bazaar or farmers market, but with the COVID pandemic underway, students had to get even more creative and find a new way to market their products. After a recommendation by a school in Billings, they selected the online sale site called Shopify.

The SHS Shopify site, shs-entrepreneurship-class.myshopify.com/, lists 97 products including oil paintings, wire creations, art, candles, wood projects, bracelets, stickers, lamps, key chains, essentials, fishing tackle, steel tumblers, cutting boards, picture frames and leather journals.

SHS entrepreneur students shared what they learned from their experience.

Freshman Malia Gunterman said creating her business taught her about the financial and creative sides of business.

“Throughout the process of creating my product, I was able to realize that age does not determine success and that a little bit of hard work goes a long way,” Gunterman said.

Freshman Savannah Kostecki said the idea for her business, Tumblers Avenue, came from a family friend.

“They started making [20-ounce plastic and stainless steel tumblers] one year ago and they taught me,” Kostecki said. “I hope to sell all of my cups and to make a profit. I’m excited to start selling and making them for my customers.”

Freshman Holly St. Germain developed her business, Krazy Keychains, with homemade embroidery thread key chains with each one having a unique pattern.

“It has been a great experience to make these key chains and learn about the business world,” Germain said. “Creating this business has given me an opportunity to make key chains that I love as well as sell them to others and see them love them too. Entrepreneurship class has taught me so much as well as getting me interested in business.”

Senior Matthew Wilkinson, whose business is M & C Furniture, said, “The reflection is that I want to be able to have fun when doing this and one day this will be my full-time job.”

Currently, students are marketing and advertising the SHS Shopify site, most customers are friends of the students and purchased products are picked up at the school office. The site will be open until April 16.

“Then we will take a break from selling and re-evaluate how things went, what can be changed, and do another selling time the first two weeks of May,” Bauman said. “I will 100% wrap up the selling by May 13. The last day for seniors is the 14th and I want to make sure they get their profits before they leave. Next year I'm hoping we will be able to do an actual in-person market day for the kids.”

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National Library Week with a theme of "Welcome to Your Library" this year is April 4 - 10 and the North Valley Public Library has a special display in celebration. Visit NVPL at 208 Main Street in Stevensville.

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