JLA fifth-graders put business into action at Entrepreneur Fair
Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
By now, fifth-graders at James Lane Allen Elementary have crunched the numbers and know how they came out in the school’s annual Entrepreneur Fair. Since the theme was “Keep calm and profit on,” hopefully most of the students ended up in the black.
Social studies teacher Andrea White organizes the fair as part of her unit on economics. It’s not a quick-hit project either; students spend a couple of months preparing for the big day. After White approves their pitches, the children survey peers and families to gauge the market and set prices for their product or service. The students also determine their start-up costs, project their profits and develop persuasive advertising to hang in the hallways. “We try to encourage them to be creative, but you want to sell something that’s functional,” White said.
At the fair, which is held during school and again in the evening for communitywide sales, the youngsters are encouraged to engage potential customers as they hawk their wares. “You have to have the courage just to stand up here and try to sell to people,” a confident Charlotte Barnes said during a short break. “If you try hard enough, you’ll be successful.”
Charlotte had secured a corner spot near the fair’s entrance, so her colorful flip-flop display got plenty of attention. “A lot of girls here wear bows, so I thought it’d be a good idea to make (matching) shoes,” she explained. “The hardest part was making the 52 pairs. It took me days and days.”
She reported brisk sales at $5 per pair and anticipated making a profit even after paying back her parents for the fabric tablecloths and other set-up materials. “It’s not easy starting a business on your own,” Charlotte noted.
The noisy gym was packed with booths featuring everything from flower hairclips and keychains made of computer keyboard keys, to small purses fashioned from colorful duct tape and pencil cups from brightly decorated soda cans. Other students ran carnival games like “Pawlinko” and sold nachos, flavored popcorn and sno cones.
A steady stream of customers kept business partners Justin Verdin and Ruendi Gomez hopping. “Kids like getting their hair different colors, and they get a free mustache,” Justin said as he shook up a can of pink spray. In fact, all ages plopped down in the chair for a quick ’do spray and sauntered away sporting a press-on ’stache. “When we first started, we thought it’d be the easiest thing,” Ruendi added, “but you’ve got to make people look good.”
Throughout the Entrepreneur Fair project, the youngsters explored such marketplace concepts as supply and demand, wants vs. needs, business competition, revenue, profit, and the risk and rewards of investing. “The fifth-graders are learning the business process inside and out,” said Principal Greg Williams. “They see what all goes into a product, and they’re held accountable. They’re getting a real taste of what the real world is like.”