Students in Wylie’s entrepreneurship classes aren’t just learning about starting a business – they ARE starting a business.
The two classes taught by Reagan Berry have teamed up with Junior Achievement’s Company Program to create actual businesses that will earn them cold hard cash.
“We have learned what it takes to own a business, and the work you have to put into it,” said Sierra Coles, who is in the class. “It’s fun. I enjoy it.”
The entrepreneurship classes are sometimes confused with the business management class that created The Purple Dog Company, which sells products made by students in extracurricular classes. But the classes are completely different. The Purple Dog Company is a school business. The businesses created in the entrepreneurship classes belong to the students, who directly pocket any profits. Junior Achievement helps the students with legal issues and startup costs and provides mentors from the community to help them along the way. Each of the two classes divided up into four companies, and each company was assigned a CEO. The students in each group brainstormed ideas, selected a product or service and came up with business and marketing plans. Eight new businesses are now up and running.
“We are all excited,” Berry said about the new businesses. “Each class is assigned an entrepreneur from the community, and they work with them for 13 weeks.”
Student Rylee Keesee said the mentors have provided valuable insight.
“They’ve been super helpful,” she said. “They throw out ideas.”
Classmate Lee Feemster agreed.
“They treat us like adults and give us ideas on how to make our business better,” Lee said.
One thing the students have learned is that starting a business is no easy thing. Most of the teams had their first product ideas thrown out by JA’s legal team, and some teams had their second and third ideas nixed.
“It’s not a cake walk,” said Duncan Bacon. “Our first idea was having a recycling business, but that got shot down because of liability.”
Duncan’s team also considered calendars and post cards before settling on an Abilene-themed coloring book.
“You have to work together and communicate with the whole team,” Jack Blakely said. “It’s a lot of teamwork making sure everybody does their part.”
But the students said that what they have learned has been incredible.
“I just thought it would be an average business class,” Hailey Parker said. “It’s kind of an amazing thing that we are a part of it.”
“It’s helpful thing,” Rylee agreed. “We get experience in business at something we enjoy doing.”
Here’s a look at the eight businesses. If you would like to purchase something from one of the companies, go to our website, WylieGrowl.com, for links to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter or search for the business name on social media sites.
Product: handmade and customizable signs, wreaths, and blankets
Members: Rylee Keesee, Arin Zachary, Bella Cope, Myka Montes, Ashlee Kelsey, Devon Warner.
The name is a combination of each team member’s first initial, and the team developed its product idea based on the talents of team members.
“Arin and I both do the calligraphy signs and that was the initial idea,” Rylee said. “Then we expanded to things other people could do. It’s handmade and it’s customizable, so it’s whatever the customer wants.”
Madbar has been a huge success so far. The company sold out of blankets and sold 19 signs at the Bulldog Christmas Market and had made more than $1,000 within a short time.
They planned to attend other Christmas fairs and markets around the Abilene area.
“I think our biggest market will be markets and fairs where people can see our products,” Arin said.
Rylee said the markets also help with publicity.
“I think it helps grow the business,” she said. “It’s a way for us to get more exposure.”
The group was hoping to expand its offerings in the future. They said Junior Achievement had been a huge help to them.
“They handle all those legal things, and we get to see how its all done,” Arin said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Product: Soundwave jewelry
Members: Sheilla Kaberuka, Rachel White, Abigail Higginbotham, Emmaleise Hererra, Christine Nikiza and Rema Werriwa.
Sonora is sound wave in Spanish.
Rema said she saw the sound wave jewelry online and thought it might work for her team.
“I brought the idea to my comrades here, and they liked it,” she said. “There’s no place in Abilene that does any of these.”
Soundwave jewelry has the sound wave of a specific phrase engraved on it.
“They are hand engraved,” Rema said. “We take our time on each one. It’s personalized to whatever you want.”
The group sold more than $650 worth of jewelry at the Bulldog Market and plans to open an Etsy shop, offering better quality at cheaper prices than most online places.
One thing the team learned at the Bulldog Market is that they have to be salesman to promote their product.
“We had to do a lot of talking,” Sheilla said. “We had to explain it.”
“We all have learned that you have to be very forward and aggressive,” Rachel said. “I think we learned that from Bulldog Market.”
Product: Phone cases with the Bulldog logo.
Members: Davyn Williford, Reid Heuerman, Austin Brewer, Brady Huff, Trey Hagler, Jack Blakely.
Phone cases were not the group’s first idea, but it has definitely worked out for them. The group has been marketing the cases to the student body, and sales have been great, they say.
“We see our market every day,” Jack said. “We have been selling for two or three days, and sales have been great. The profit margin is great.”
Reid said so far most sales have come from word of mouth.
“We all have cases on us, so whenever we encounter someone, we ask if they want one,” Reid said.
The group is also using social media to promote the cases. Right now the group is offering clear cases with a Bulldog sticker, but they hope to expand that eventually.
“We are going to try to work on custom stickers,” Davyn said.
Product: Thin Blue Line apparel and accessories with 10 percent donated to the Abilene Police Department.
Members: Lee Feemster, Marcus Ganesh, Aden Garza, Halle Arbilera and Cash Wilson.
Lee said he came up with the idea after seeing all the support for the men in blue on the Internet.
“When it came time to pick a business, I figured we could do that to show support,” he said. “At times, they are overlooked, and they don’t get the support they deserve.”
His teammates agreed, and they have used social media to try and sell their products.
“We’ve had a few bumps in the road,” Lee said. “But it’s been fun.”
Marcus said he learned the value of teamwork.
“When you work as a team, you can do anything,” he said. “We all do our part.”
“We’ve kind of gotten the name out there to our friends and got some adds out there,” Lee said. “It’s going better than expected.”
Product: Abilene-Themed Coloring Book
Members: Duncan Bacon, Elizabeth Fillingim, Hailey Parker, Jackson Smith, Brodey Baker, Payton Alexander, Sutton Welch.
The name is a combination of their names. After having their initial ideas turned down, the group decided on coloring books. They took pictures of local Abilene landmarks, and used an app to convert the pictures into coloring pages. They sold 13 copies at the Bulldog Market.
They have 20 books on consignment at the Texas Star downtown and are hoping to get the books on display at the NCCIL and The Grace Museum.
“We also have social media pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook,” Sutton said.
“We the only coloring book that is doing it around Abilene,” Payton said. “We have a monopoly.”
Product: Journals with inspiring quotes
Members: Brooke McBride, Sierra Coles, Tyler Arnwine, Malcolm Colvin and Levi Luckey.
The group ordered very nice journals with an attached pen and then came up with quotes to have inscribed on them.
“We have 15 different quotes,” Brooke said. “People also have the option to do a customized quote.”
They are using social media and flyers to get the word out. They are hoping to sell enough to pay back their investor and then have enough money left to buy more journals.
“We have to sell 23-25 to break even and pay that back,” Brooke said. “After that, it’s profit. I hope that we can get more investment money, so we can keep on going,” Tyler said he had no idea what he was getting into when he signed up for the entrepreneurship class.
“I knew but I didn’t know that it would be this big,” he said. “We are actually making a business.”
Steals and Deals Consignment Shop
Product: Used electronics, clothes, garage sale type items.
Members: Tyler Spears, Hannah Hammond, Joseph Gomez, Jacob Sanchez, Vianka Flores.
“It’s for people around Abilene who want to sell their items, but don’t want to have a garage sale,” Tyler said. “We will sell their items.”
Tyler said the group came up with the idea to offer a service rather than a product.
“Most people in our class were creating a product,” he said. “We decided to do something different. We decided we would resell people’s items for them. We felt like there was a market for it.”
He said that rather than having the overhead of a physical shop, the group hopes to have pop-up shops in parking lots of businesses. They will use social media to promote their sales.
They are also working to grow their inventory. They split profits 50/50 with anyone who wants them to sell their items. They are looking for items that are easy to move – clothes, electronics. They will pick the items up.
Tyler said creating the business has been difficult but eye opening.
“It’s unique,” he said. “We learned it’s hard to get your name out there for people to recognize you and just to get the ball rolling on sales. It does take a lot of work.”
Product: Custom Lanyards
Members: Dylan Sauve, Brice Steppat, Boyd Paxton, Zane Tindell and Chance Rains.
“The lanyard says ‘Where’s your ID?’” Dylan said. “That’s what the principals say to us every morning, so it’s a catchy phrase.”
Like many of the other groups, ABI struggled to come up with a product that met the approval of the JA legal team.
“After we got turned down twice, we were running low on things,” Zane said. “We thought not many people have custom lanyards. We thought maybe we can make some money doing this.”
One thing the team has learned is that business is tough.
“It’s very hard to get started,” Dylan said. “Things don’t go as planned most of the time.”
Brice said he has learned that you don’t have to be rich to start a business.
“I learned it doesn’t take a million dollars to get started,” he said. “It’s cheaper than I thought.”
Zane said he came into the class set on being an entrepreneur but the experience has taught him that it might not suit his strengths.
“I found out that I can’t do it by myself,” he said. “I can’t see myself being one.”
Others are more determined than ever to be entrepreneurs.
“I wanted to be before, and it’s made me want to pursue it even more,” Boyd said.
“I came in thinking I would,” Dylan said. “So far it’s proven to be different than I believed it would be. I’m still trying to decide.”