Student business ventures reconnect kids to community
There are many reasons to create and sell a product:
You might be focused on making money, or you want to solve a problem. Maybe you want to make the world better with your creation, or simply want to make a cool idea into a reality.
This is what students have the opportunity to do through the PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs program, which has students from grades 4 to 8 invent products, test them, create a business plan, and put them up for sale in a market event where the school and the wider community is invited.
The program has a knack for engaging a broad range of learners – even those who aren’t usually motivated, says PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs executive director Bill Roche.
When students are invited to create their own invention, engage with a wider community, and even have the opportunity to make some money, they pick up critical thinking, communications and math skills along the way, to name a few.
But pandemic restrictions have made the students’ business mentors and buyers harder to reach.
In general, students are feeling isolated from their friends, their school community and the wider community. But with funding from United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island through the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, and with material costs covered by Coastal Community Credit Union, PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs was able to adapt and get students in Campbell River connected with mentors and maintain part of what makes this program exciting for so many kids.
“The community connection piece is critically important,” says Bill.
“The students … they work so hard, they develop prototypes, they develop products, they use market research, they put so much effort into creating their product ideas, and it’s really exciting for them to see how people respond.
“It’s that feedback from their peers, that feedback from adults, community members. It just helps them think on their feet, solve problems, develop their communication skills. They have to take risks and step out of their comfort zones. But they also get to hear the positive feedback and guidance and support. So they take such pride in their accomplishments as a result.”
Knowing how crucial this is and how disconnected students are feeling during the pandemic, PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs was able to set up virtual meetings with students and business mentors in their community who could work through business plans, help with product creation ideas, provide feedback, and even help kids learn how to create commercials for their product.
“Getting insight from some new people was refreshing and highly motivating for our kids,” says Cedar Elementary teacher Tina Kuschel.
“I loved how kind and attentive the facilitators and volunteers were with the students. The whole experience made it feel like school was almost normal again.”
This is the critical difference that UWCNVI funding made, says Bill.
“The United Way funding was really powerful in the sense that it provided those connections and that support and that positive encouragement to students at a time when it’s really the most important.”