(From left) Kamryn Braidwood

Spencer middle school students venture into the retail world

West Shore Chamber of Commerce member businesses step up in a big way

The hallway resembles pure chaos. Voices reverberate off concrete walls as young feet pad along the floor. There’s a buzz of electricity in the air that only seems to come from excited children.

One student snakes his way through the crowd with poster boards strapped to his body forming a makeshift sandwich board, toting the tie-dyed clothing he’s pushing. Others run from table to table, carefully checking out each display before deciding what to spend their handful of coins on.

This was recently the scene at Spencer middle school in Langford, as eight Grade 6 classes set up a retail mall during their lunch break. It’s all part of a program run by Junior Achievement of British Columbia (JABC) to introduce students to business.

“It takes the students out of the textbook and gives them real-world experience,” said Deborah Wakeham, JABC’s regional manager for Vancouver Island.

A Business of Our Own is a five-part program that guides students through the process of planning and operating a small retail business. Students do it all, from picking a product, sourcing materials, manufacturing and promoting it, with the end goal of making a profit. The program is provided free and each classroom is partnered with a local business professional who volunteers their time to help facilitate the lessons while sharing their knowledge.

This is the sixth year the program has been offered at Spencer, and the first time eight classes have been involved. That interest caused the non-profit JABC to reach out to the WestShore Chamber of Commerce, asking them to rally members to see if anyone was interested in volunteering.

“People just came out in droves,” Wakeham said. “It’s a really neat partnership … While they’re in the classroom, they really mentor and inspire.”

Jackson Wagner, kilt maker and co-owner of North of Hadrian’s Kilts and Celtic Clothing, was one member who stepped up.

“He is so brilliant with the students,” Wakeham said. “The students feel comfortable with him.”

Of course, the kilt he’s wearing doesn’t hurt. Wagner’s group is selling savage survival bracelets. “They did a lot of brainstorming in the class to come up with something catchy,” he said. “Their enthusiasm is outrageous.”

Wagner went into the classroom with the idea of keeping business concepts simple and concentrated on explaining his own business and experiences simply to the students.

“I was really surprised how eager kids at this age were to learn about business,” he said. “They can figure it out and run with it.”

He said often times people tend to overcomplicate businesses. The school experience has prompted him to look at his own day-to-day operations and he questioned why he’s made some things so hard for himself. “What I took back to my own shop is that idea of keeping it simple,” he added.

Wagner’s students were well on their way to selling out of product during the first of the two-day sale.

Eleven-year-old Sam Shasko said her class chose to sell the survival bracelets because they sold really well the year before. “The bracelets can help you in the wild.” She added, “if we make $200, the teachers will buy us slushies.”

Part of the motivation behind finding a product that will sell well was that the decision of what to do with the profits was also left in the hands of the students. They could pay themselves, invest the money for future classes or donate it.

Matthew Sieben, 11, said the class chose to donate all profits from the survival bracelets to the SPCA’s WildARC facility in Metchosin. It ties into how their product is meant to be worn in the wild, he said, and that Spencer’s mascot is a wild cat. “I’m having a lot of fun, especially with all of the projects,” he added.

Jason Chan, a Grade 6 teacher, said the experience provides “a real world learning opportunity for the kids.” Working with Wagner has been very beneficial for his students, he added, as the kilt seller hasn’t taken the typical path for a business.

“Their motivation and engagement has been so high,” Chan said.

Presentation is everything when it comes to slime

Students at Spencer middle school in Langford recently got a lesson in all things business, courtesy of Junior Achievement British Columbia and members of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.

One of those business professionals was Cabello Salon owner Jessica Salema. She gave her group of students some very valuable insight on packaging, leading up to the opening of the class’ own little retail shop.

Her students chose to sell slime at a pop-up mall that recently transformed the school’s hallways. But making that slime appealing to everyone was a challenge the class took on enthusiastically.

“They’re so creative,” said Salema. “Who knew slime could look so good?”

Her students were tasked with sourcing containers to sell their product in and came back with two different packages. After a lot of teamwork and collaboration inside the classroom, those containers turned into monsters and cupcakes – complete with plastic sprinkles and paper icing. Salema added the students brought in prototypes and went from there.

The class chose to donate its profits from slime sales to the B.C. SPCA.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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