A lesson in entrepreneurship
Laden with homemade wares to tempt holiday shoppers, Havre fifth-graders set up shop at Sunnyside Intermediate School Thursday night determined to bring in the green and stay out of the red.
At Sunnyside's fourth annual Trade Fair, students and community members came by the dozens to shop at more than 50 student-run businesses. Students hawked everything from candles and Christmas ornaments to fudge, hair braiding, and pens decorated with feathers.
"I've never been to one of these. This place is crazy, all the way down and in either direction," Sunnyside parent Kevin Barsotti said, referring to the mobs of shoppers crowding the halls and filling the gym at Sunnyside. "They're teaching them practical lessons they can use their whole life."
The fair is the culmination of the school's unit on entrepreneurship.
At S&K's Christmas Cottage, Shana Grant, 10, and Kacie Johnson, 11, were selling wooden dream catchers for $3 each.
Nearby at Fluffy Pincushions, Rhiannon Hensley, 10, had a desk full of what looked like colorful mushrooms. She was selling pincushions made from bottle caps, a square of fabric, fluff, lace and a pin for 50 cents apiece.
"I learned from my teacher that you should put it at a decent price so you don't have to spend too much money on it," she said. If Hensley has her own business some day, she'd sell quilts and candles and home decorations, she said.
Nearby, at MJ Original Designs, Mariah Zandhuisen, 10, and Jazmyne Torres, 11, were selling bracelets, necklaces, stuffed animals, and appointments to braid people's hair into corn rows.
The competition was out in the hall at Brace Yourself, where Sammantha Kelly, 11, and Andrea Nault, 10, were also selling bracelets.
Out in the hall, Jonathan Austin, 10, and Jake Canning, 11, were selling cloth place mats, table runners, fudge, and pins and magnets.
"It takes a little thinking (to know) what customers like," Canning said. They like things that can go in stockings, he added.
Customer service, of course, is essential to any good business, and a host of solicitous business people greeted the browsing shoppers on Thursday.
"These are 50 cents, these are a quarter, these are a quarter, these are 50 cents, and those are 50 cents," said Brandon Williams, 11, co-owner of Jolly Belly Ornaments, as he gestured at an array of Christmas ornaments.
One of his two business partners, Michael Spinler, 11, was selling glass bulb ornaments decorated with swirled paint. He only had a few left.
"Due to limited quantity, they've been deducted to 25 cents," he told anyone within earshot.
"Shouldn't the price go up?" inquired a bystander.
"No, I'm being reasonable," said Spinler, who said he wants to own a sporting goods store some day.
The students may not yet know the laws of supply and demand, but they made out well. Half an hour later Spinler was sold out.
The fair has become a tradition that students look forward to at Sunnyside, but it has a purpose, said Karla Geda, one of the fifth-grade teachers who helped start the fair three years ago. For two or three weeks after Thanksgiving, she said, the fifth-grade teachers teach a young entrepreneur unit, which teaches students about business terminology, rental agreements, loan applications, interest rates, collateral, and expenses and profits. As part of that unit, the students develop a business name and a project, which they make themselves. Then they sell their products at the trade fair, keep some of their profits for class activities, and then donate the rest to community organizations of the students' choosing, from the Havre Food Bank to Kitty Keepers to the skateboard park.
Pam Stenerson, the other fifth-grade teacher who helped organize the school's first trade fair, said that last year the students made $1,700, and donated about a third of that. That's a way of representing the rent and costs students would have to pay out of their gross earnings in a real business, she said.