The Grade 12 Entrepreneurship class at Chilliwack Secondary is a classroom bursting with ideas.
From initial brainstorming all the way to production and sales – these students are tackling an experiential learning project like none other.
For eight years, teacher Matthew Ferris has been teaching entrepreneurship as a viable career option by showing students how it works.
As the class divides into small groups to start sharing ideas for their own product or service, they’re being exposed to entrepreneurial ideas from around the world and in their own community.
“We have guest speakers, each group invites one in, and they talk about how they got their business up and running,” Ferris said. Local business owners like Sam Waddington from Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors, Richard Procee from Hofstede’s Country Barn, and Ian Sparkes from Sparkes Corn Barn were also invited to participate in the in-class Dragon’s Den activity.
“Having a community member come in and give feedback and advice provides real-world perspective. It’s not just a teacher and a textbook,” Ferris explained. “And it’s a nice way to involve the community.”
Even after so many years of teaching the course, Ferris never tires of it. Every class is completely different because students are coming up with novel ideas.
The Elegant Collections team came up with their idea through Pinterest research. They realized that they could create and sell trendy hand-made jewellery and decor that customers might not have the time or artistic ability to make themselves.
Their painted and decorated mason jars are “universal” in purpose, appealing to a wide market. “They could be used as planters in the garden, you could have some in the garage, the kitchen, the bathroom or bedroom,” Haley Thompson said.
They promote the storage jars – which can be purchased in a set for a better deal – as well as handmade jewellery holders and Matt Sande’s quartz necklaces using social media.
Mitchell Cedilla, Cole Lang and Jamal Saad-deen have taken a sweet approach with their business, Slam Jam.
First, they tried making salsas, but quickly realized it wasn’t a feasible option. When they switched to jams, they knew they were in a crowded market. “So we thought, how about soda-flavoured jam?” Saad-deen explained.
Flavours like Root Beer and Cream Soda allow them to appeal to a unique market, and the less-expenseive ingredients allow them to offer customers a lower price point.
While coming up with the recipes was the easy part, finding time to get their name out there – while balancing their other school work and part-time jobs – has proven to be quite a hurdle.
Targeting seniors and busy families, Brendon Renaud-Gervais and Lauren Johnston of Got Groceries aim to make it faster and easier for the people of Chilliwack to get the food they need in a crunch.
Through retail experience and the advice of the Dragons, they’ve capitalized on the importance of the personal connection. “We actually come to your door and shake your hand,” Renaud-Gervais explained, which sets them apart in the industry. “They write out their list, and give us the money to go get it.”
In addition to social media, they’ve taken extra steps to promote their business by designing business cards and a car magnet, and offering incentives for customers. They’re continuing to build a customer base by reaching out to and following-up with as many people as they can.
Each of the groups are gearing up to promote their business at the All About Kids Expo this weekend, a first for CSS’s entrepreneurship class.
Elegant Collections is busily building up their inventory to display as much as possible. Slam Jam is cooking up a variety of samples to hand out to guests. Got Groceries is practicing their sales techniques as they prepare for the opportunity to directly reach their target market.
In addition to the exposure, it’ll be an opportunity to look at the market from a seller’s perspective. What’s out there? How are they marketing it? What creative tactics are they using?
“Some groups do really well, and some struggle a bit,” Ferris said. “They’re going to get out of this project what they put into it.”
Regardless, they’re learning skills that will look great on a resume, and lessons that will help them in just about any career.
As classmates transition from friends to business partners, their leadership and problem-solving skills mature. As they set their prices and compare their costs with net profits, they’re learning to budget. Through risk assessment, they’re learning how and when to make the tough calls.
The most rewarding part of the process, Ferris says, is seeing the progression. Students start with nothing but an idea. Within a few short months, they turn that idea into profit.
The All About Kids Expo takes place May 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Heritage Park. Learn more at allaboutexpos.com.