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Becoming Entrepreneurs - Students Give Business a Try

Thursday, May 28, 2009   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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Andy Fitzpatrick
The Enquirer

The local economy may be sagging, but don't try telling that to area youth.

They're too busy trying to sell you something.

Generation E Institute's Fourth Annual Student Business Showcase was held Tuesday in Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. Students from various Battle Creek middle and high schools joined with kids from the Branch Area Careers Center, the Calhoun Area Career Center and others to pitch products and gain entrepreneurial experience.

"I know when I grow up, I want to be an entrepreneur," student business owner Crystal Hagerman said. "There's a lot of competition and you have to learn to be better than them."

The 18-year-old Coldwater High School student was offering customizable cell phone, laptop and iPod vinyl coverings through her business, Chameleon.

"I came up with this idea because whenever I get a phone cover, it's always bulky and not exactly what I want," she said. "So I wanted to have something where you can make it exactly what you want and it's not bulky. It's just cute for your phone, you know?"

Hagerman was operating one of about 60 businesses that were set up on tables on the arena's main floor.

The products and services offered were limited only by the imaginations and resources of the students. Cat toys, homemade soaps, rings made from $2 bills, pens shaped like baseball bats and cakes were only a few of the items available.

As judges and potential customers made their way through the aisles, well-dressed kids, teenagers and young adults extended hands to shake and lured people over to their tables.

Two Lakeview High School students, Jessica Fox and Kailyn Yawger, were putting a lot of effort into the hard sell of their Lakeview Spartan-themed shorts company, JK Shorts.

"Then you can get to the customers," said Yawger, 17. She said if they didn't work on getting into the aisles and drawing people in, customers were likely to walk by without purchasing anything.

"It's very valuable to get some experience in the entrepreneurship field," said Fox, 17. "We might want to pursue that, and now we have some experience."

Cheryl Peters, Generation E Institute co-director, said the skills picked up at the showcase will have real world effects.

"I think they're very encouraged," Peters said of the students' outlook on entering the working world. "I was talking to one group who said, 'we made some contacts, and we got some jobs for the summer.'"

"If they're going to be an entrepreneur or get a job, they're going to interview better," she said. "They're going to be better employees."

Tuesday's showcase also put students through workshops led by local business owners and educational instructors.

The student businesses received awards in categories such as Best Business Plan and Most Creative Business. The award money, as well as the entire showcase, is funded entirely through public donations.

"The Rotary Club has been very generous with us," Peters said. She also said the Battle Creek Community Foundation, the Miller Foundation, Albion College and individual business owners have given to the entrepreneur cause.

"It comes from the community, it comes from parents, it comes from people," she said.

Andy Fitzpatrick can be reached at 966-0697 or afitzpatrick@battlecr.gannett.com.

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