FLEMING ISLAND – At Paterson Elementary School, there’s a class of fifth graders learning things that some adults still don’t know today.
Last year, teachers Tara Hancock and Beth Williams, and their fifth-grade classes, created a “Kid Market.” The market is a project that spans months, teaches students about finances and allows students the chance to open and operate a business. And it’s not just simple finances either. Students learn about supply and demand, interest rates, loans and profit and loss. It all begins by developing a full-blown business plan, including a business name and logo.
“This entire unit is about entrepreneurship,” Hancock said. “Last year was our first time, and they begged to do it again this year. We weren’t going to do it every year but since they were so motivated, we couldn’t say no.”
The key component of this project, above all of the talk of business and finances, is critical thinking. The project is designed in such a way that each student must think critically about each decision to ensure their business runs as smooth and efficiently as others. At the end of the day, that means making money.
Other students at Paterson Elementary are given fake dollars they can use to purchase items from the Kid Market. Depending on the items being sold, which includes lemonade, virtual reality experiences, rainbow bracelets and more, a student might make a lot of money. Sadly, they might not make much money at all but, according to Hancock, everything that happens is to serve the learning experience.
A student whose profits soar might learn how to startup a successful business. A student whose profits don’t do so well might learn what steps need to be taken to prevent lower profits next time. Regardless, these fifth graders are learning the basics of entrepreneurship.
One student even learned about direct competition. For last year’s market, Logan Enyedi, 10, ran a business that sold rainbow bracelets and it did fairly well. This year, though, Enyedi’s sales are lower and he blames his two classmates across the room.
“My business is Beautiful Band Bracelets and they’re rainbow bracelets that took me forever to make,” Enyedi said. “I did them last year and this year, [the business across the room] decided to copy me so, yeah.”
“My stuff isn’t selling as good mainly because I have that competition,” Enyedi continued, pointing at the kids across the room, which prompted a friendly back-and-forth. “Next time, I’m just going to be even better.”
Of the 26 kids who have set up shop during this year’s kid market, some of them, like Enyedi, decided to go solo. Others, though, teamed up with other students. That’s exactly what Sadie Parish, 11, and Hannah Ladd, 11, did.
“We just had this great breakthrough about working together,” Ladd said. “We were both stuck brainstorming ideas and then Sadie said, ‘Let’s do keychains,’ and that’s what we’re doing.”
Part of the Kid Market, according to Hancock, is market research. For this, students had to ask their fellow peers what kinds of goods and services they’d be interested in. That’s where Parish’s idea of keychains came from.
“I thought about how every kid just loves keychains on their backpacks and they always seem to love and buy keychains,” Parish said. “Every store you go to has keychains that you can buy so I thought it would be a big seller.”
And a big seller it has been. Ladd said they’ve already had to raise the prices of their keychains to account for the ebb and flow of their business’ supply and demand, something they learned they might have to do as business owners.
One student, Emma Reavis, 11, was so inspired by this project that she sees herself as a future business owner one day.
“I really like this and maybe I’ll do it when I grow up,” Reavis said. “Everyone that’s tried my lemonade has said it’s really good and I should go setup at the pool or something.”
Reavis’ business is a lemonade stand that not only sells the popular summer drink, but cookies as well. Her family suggested she name the business, “Lemmanade” but Reavis had other plans.
“I just really love llamas so I named it ‘Llama-nade’,” Reavis said. “That made it easy to pick a logo too.”
The Llama-nade logo is a hand-drawn llama with a speech bubble that says, “Llama-nade” and under it, the words “It’s Llamalicios.” Each student learned marketing by devising a slogan for their business as well.
While Reavis had a lot of fun working on this project, she warns those interested in starting a business about the hard work they have in front of them.
“To people out there, if you want to start a business, you have to go through a whole process,” Reavis said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m going to do a lemonade stand and it’s going to be so much fun and I’m going to get all the ingredients and just sell it,’.”
“No, it’s not that easy,” Reavis said. “You have to get all of the permits and you have to do a lot of things before you can start a business.”
Going into the project, Reavis thought it would be easy but she’s learned that, like many things in life, it’s challenging but that challenge is equally rewarding.
“When I first did this last year, I was like, ‘this will be easy’,” Reavis said. “But now, I know it’s not easy and it’s pretty hard but I like it. That’s what makes it fun.”