Biz camp for kids

Chico State student organization gives kids business experience

Young entrepreneur Emily Rich, 11, poses in front of her booth at the Chico Saturday farmers’ market. Her handmade items included scarves, washcloths and paintings.

Young entrepreneur Emily Rich, 11, poses in front of her booth at the Chico Saturday farmers’ market. Her handmade items included scarves, washcloths and paintings.

Photo By stacey kennelly

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For many children Saturday mornings begin with flicking on the television or powering up a video-game system. But for 35 kids from schools around Chico who are participating in an entrepreneurship camp this semester, the past few weekends have been filled with other, more-educational activities.

“I think it’s really inspiring for kids to come here on the weekend, because it’s like school, but it’s different and fun,” said Emily Rich, an 11-year-old with poise far beyond her years. “Most kids sit around on the weekends and watch cartoons or something, but this is a better use of time.”

Rich, an honors student who is also participating in two local plays and takes piano lessons, is just one of the creative and bright kids participating in Wise Kid Healthy Kid, a five-week entrepreneurship camp for fifth- and sixth-graders in which Chico State students walk the kids through the process of running a small business, from designing a product to selling it at the farmers’ market.

“There’s really no business education available for anyone under the college level,” said Chico State student Thomas Moiseve, director of this semester’s camp and a member of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), the student-business organization that launched the camp in the late ’90s. “So we wanted to find a way to get kids interested in business, and get them thinking about business at an earlier age—specifically, entrepreneurship.”

Moiseve and co-director Nathan Pike, along with a dozen student volunteers, sacrifice their Saturday mornings to teach kids simplified versions of the concepts they are learning in college. The first three Saturdays are held in a Chico State classroom, where the student mentors explain business “big ideas,” including how to set prices based on costs, how to set obtainable business goals, and how to communicate effectively, Moiseve said.

Mentors also relay well-known concepts such as the four P’s of marketing (product, placement, price and promotion) and the triple-bottom-line concept, which focuses on people, profit and planet.

“We try to instill in them the fact that business decisions affect more than just the businesses themselves, but also society and the environment,” Moiseve added, noting that campers took a field trip to Chico State’s Compost Display Area, where they learned potential ways to reduce waste in their businesses.

On the last classroom day in late February, campers put the finishing touches on their business plans. The room buzzed as 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds tossed around business jargon including “break-even point” and “desired profit margin.”

Two boys who formed a partnership, Zach Almand and Jack Gillaspie, boasted about the good deal they were getting by hiring a friend for minimum wage, an artist who could help them crank out the bright fishing lures the boys planned to sell at the market.

“It’s going to help us make a lot more money,” Almand said with a toothy grin.

The kids showcased their products at the Chico Saturday farmers’ market last weekend (March 5), where they identified their products and prices with posters.

Their homemade treasures ranged from flower headbands to granite coasters, which one boy made out of scrap his dad got at work. Other kids sold jewelry, paintings and scarves, and one girl made magnets with photos she’d taken of Chico landmarks. The camp is free for kids, though the children do supply the materials for their projects.

Campers were still in good spirits near the end of the market, when some had sold out and others were finding creative ways to push their products. Some highlighted certain deals to customers walking by, and others provided demonstrations.

This coming Saturday (March 12), the campers will celebrate their successes with a graduation ceremony. They will also retake a test they took on the first day, so their mentors can gauge what they’ve learned. Moiseve said he hopes to see an 80 percent improvement among the kids.

Explaining complicated business concepts to kids is the toughest part, he said.

“I used the lemonade-stand example a lot,” he said. “They might not understand what’s happening on a big level with multinational corporations, but if we bring it down to something they can connect with, it helps them understand the challenges of running a business better.”

Moiseve said he is most impressed by the campers’ ability to grasp complicated concepts quickly.

“They learn concepts that a lot of college kids have trouble with,” he said. “They pick it up after just a few hours, and that’s pretty amazing.”