Sunday, 15 December 2013

Lessons in Entrepreneurship

This term, my class has been learning about entrepreneurship by using the PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs program.  This is the second year that I have used it and my students and I both learned a lot.  I found it to be a valuable program because the students had to demonstrate creativity, critical thinking and communication skills.

Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight cc 

Students took out a loan from their parents to buy materials to create a product.  They came up with a wide variety of products. Then, they did some market research on what other students liked about their products and what they were willing to pay.  They created a business plan and then marketed their products using flyers and announcements in the school.  We also discussed social responsibility and giving back to the community.  As a class, we decided on a charity we would give a percentage of our profits to.  Finally, they sold their products during an Entrepreneur Fair, which they advertised to be the perfect place for other students to buy Christmas presents for their families.  Products were sold for between $0.50 and $5.00. They were only allowed to operate their business with their business plan prominently visible on their table.  They had to think about what their customers wanted to buy, what they were willing to pay, and how to sell to their customers.  Near the end of the fair, students started putting their products on sale in order to clear out their tables. After the fair, we had a math lesson on calculating percentage and gross and net profit.

Before the fair, we discussed how to talk to customers without being too pushy or too shy.  Also, we talked about what to do if someone wanted a refund.  During the fair, one student had to deal with a customer who came back for a refund after their product broke.

Last year, when we held the Entrepreneur Fair, it was just our class who participated and most of the students sold out of their products. This year there were two classes participating and many of the students did not sell out of their products.  After the fair, we had a discussion on why some people made a profit and others did not.  Students came up with the ideas of a flooded market, competition between similar products, the quality of workmanship and the location of their table in the gym.

Here is a list of things to remember to do when using this program:

  1.  Make a list of who is making what.  I didn't allow two of the exact same product.  There were two students making bracelets but they were different from each other. Check in with each student week to week so that you know that they are making good progress on creating their products. 
  2. Clearly set a limit on what they can spend on their materials.  Communicate this to their families.  There is a loan certificate included in the materials where parents sign off on how much money they are lending their children.
  3. Ask the students to only make one prototype to test the market with.  They can do their market survey using that one product.  Some of them will try to run out and buy enough materials to make thirty of something and then it might not be a successful product.
  4. Encourage students to use recycled materials.
  5. Encourage students to be smart shoppers. (Remind them the dollar store might just be the best place for them to find their materials.)
  6. Remind students that on the day of the fair they need to keep their business money separate from their personal money with which they will be shopping.
  7. Ask students to bring money for their float in order to give change on the day of the fair.  
  8. Ask students to keep a record of how many products they sell.
  9. Book the gym or another large open are,  invite parents and have teachers sign up for a time to bring their classes to the fair.
  10. After the fair, spend some time doing all of the calculation and showing the students how to separate the float, the loan and then taking out a percentage for charity.  Then send home all of the money separated into three envelopes:  the float, the loan, and the profit. You might choose to donate to charity together as a class and keep the charity money at school until the time for donation.  
Here are some examples of what the students made.

Overall, the Powerplay Young Entrepreneurs Program is easy to follow and the teacher's guide and student books are easy to use.  I used it as a jumping off point that lead to other discussions on business, marketing, and loans. 

For term two, now that most of the students have made some money, we will be going for a visit to the bank to talk about investments and the beauty of compound interest.  That will lead us into a unit on financial literacy and how to save money and create a budget.  I'm looking forward to next term and if all goes well, we might go on a class shopping trip to plan for a class party.  

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