Kids find inner Trump in Entrepreneur Fair

Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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Fifth-graders Luis Lara (left) and Francisco Castro helped a young customer at their Mexican goody booth.

Fifth-graders Luis Lara (left) and Francisco Castro helped a young customer at their Mexican goody booth.

Fifth-graders Luis Lara (left) and Francisco Castro helped a young customer at their Mexican goody booth. Samantha Bainer (left) and Megan Showalter sold flower pens and homemade jewelry at the Entrepreneur Fair.

Flower pens, beaded bookmarks and pork rinds became instructional tools for students at James Lane Allen Elementary during the annual Entrepreneur Fair, where kids showed off what they’ve learned about the business world.

“You have to be prepared to start a business,” said Megan Showalter, one of the fifth-graders who said she learned valuable lessons.

The class unit culminated with a marketplace of student businesses that filled the school gym with food booths, vendors and games.

Megan and classmate Samantha Bainer partnered in a venture they called Girls Ink – a play on one of their products, flower pens. Their booth also stocked handmade earrings and bracelets. A friend of Megan’s mother helped the girls design the jewelry, which Megan said was particularly popular with teachers shopping at the recent fair.

“We get to see how it feels to be a real business owner and sell products and work with customers,” Samantha explained as the girls welcomed browsers.

Down the row of booths in a prime corner spot were classmates Luis Lara and Francisco Castro, who were hawking Mexican goodies, including chicharrones (fried pork rinds). “People will get hungry,” Francisco said optimistically. “We’ve made like $5” in the first hour, Luis added.

Also among the booths were young vendors selling tiger paw magnets and beaded bookmarks, cotton candy and brownies, a ring toss game, even a spot to have a picture made with a life-size cutout of President Obama.

Teacher Andrea White, who coordinated the fair, floated among the booths to answer questions and put out small fires. “Don’t eat up your profits,” she urged kids who nibbled their own wares. Then came a P.A. announcement – No marking down prices to move the products.

After students shopped the fair, the fifth-graders returned to their posts in the late afternoon, when parents and people from the community had an opportunity to stop by.

The Entrepreneur Fair was the culmination of months of preparation, which began when students had to gather their own start-up capital from family and other supporters. “This is how entrepreneurs start out. The school’s not loaning you anything,” White told them early on.

The children could provide either a product or a service. Supplies, cost analysis, presentation and pricing were among the many details to handle.

“They have to understand you’re competing with what – 50 other businesses,” White said, gesturing across the crowded gymnasium.

In the end, the kids reimbursed their investors and paid the school a 10 percent space rental fee for their booths. (That money goes toward the fifth-grade field trip to Mammoth Cave.)

“It’s a real-life learning experience for them,” White said. “This is a gift for them. They can see themselves doing this as a career.”



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