“Christmas Explosion! One for $2 or five for $8!”
“Get your Pho-Ho-Ho-Tos taken here! Only $1!”
“Kandy Shop! There’s a one-in-36 chance you’ll find money in your present!”
Student entrepreneurs from Scarlett Heights happily hawked their wares to classmates at the entrepreneurial academy’s always popular semi-annual Student Venture Day last Tuesday, shouting over the blaring beats of Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ to win some business away from their competitors.
This year’s festive “Winter Wonderland” themed showcase gave students the opportunity to go to retail with the Christmas gift business ideas they’d been developing all semester.
“The key is for them to be able to come up with an idea, to actually create it, to market it and then retail it, and it has to be a gift-giving idea...that’s the key of the assignment,” said longtime teacher Doug Ritchie.
The colourful booths, manned mostly by freshmen, were full of affordable gift ideas developed and created by the students themselves – from homemade bracelets, to cupcakes, to Christmas tree decorations filled with candy, to hand-decorated mugs.
For the participating Grade 9 Introduction to Business students, the whole Venture Day experience gives them an opportunity to get some hands-on retail experience to complement their business planning curriculum, said Scarlett Heights Principal Rizwana Jafri.
“Part of their success, then, is determined by their sales, and then their paper planning and reports showing profits and all that make up the rest of their grade,” she said. “It’s an academic exercise as well as an actual hands-on activity for them.”
For some students, like 14-year-old Laura Galvis, the venture was successful. Her team’s Christmas Explosion creations – colourful, handcrafted Christmas tree decorations made with paper and filled with candies – were a veritable hit.
After just an hour or so in business, their stock of 20 decorations was nearly sold out. For others, like the Grade 11 team who spearheaded the Pho-Ho-Ho-To Booth, business was slightly more sluggish.
“It’s a photo booth and it just gives people a chance to create a memory for themselves with a holiday card,” explained 16-year-old Jonida Golemi, noting that, for just a dollar, students could purchase a photo of themselves taken in front of one of the booth’s two festive backdrops – one of a fireplace and the other of a bookshelf – courtesy of the drama department. “We thought it fits in with the theme of Christmas cards and stuff like that, so we went with it.”
But after an hour in business, Jonida’s teammate Nadia Sabet, 16, lamented over the fact that they’d only had four takers so far. “We learned how hard it is to get people to take a picture these days and how difficult it is to run a business, especially when there’s not a lot of demand for your product,” she said.
But whether or not the students prosper on Venture Day, business teacher John Magwood said the real success of the exercise is measured by the students’ execution of their respective business plans. “It’s not all about the retailing per se, because if they do make a profit it’s normally not that big, but rather it’s all about the planning and the execution,” he explained.
“The Grade 9s have to write a business proposal and it has to be approved by us and it’s six to eight pages...they’ve never produced anything that big in their lives. They have to do a mission statement, they have to do executive profiles, they have to do complete financial analysis and forecasts, and complete resource analysis.” After all that hard work leading up to Venture Day, Magwood said that, profitable or not, he hopes his students are proud of their products and come away from the experience with their heads held high: “Most of all, I hope they walk away with a sense of accomplishment,” he said.