Mountain Island Charter students bake up a business

by Tori Hamby

Junior business partners Alexis Chapman (left) and Jessalyn Killilee attend to the rush of last-minute customers at the Mountain Island Charter School bake sale.

Seventh-graders Alexis Chapman, Jessalyn Killilee and Lizzy Griffin had no idea that creating their own business would be so difficult.

“At first, I thought it would just happen really easily, but it takes forever to set up,” said Jessalyn while passing the girls’ trademark “ocean cookies” to her eager customers.

While the junior entrepreneurs aren’t really combining their allowance money to go into the bakery business together, they are getting a glimpse into the world of start-up businesses thanks to Toni Stallings and Tara Truesdale, the teachers at Mountain Island Charter School. As part of the seventh-grade business unit, the teachers assigned students to create their own business and employ different marketing techniques to push their products.

Students chose two recipes from a previous academic unit and developed a “business” to sell their culinary creations, Stallings said. Sixth-grade students and parent volunteers were given fake money they could choose to spend at 12 student businesses at a bake sale in the charter school’s gym on March 25.

“Students took out a loan from a teacher, acting as a financial officer,” Stallings explained. “At the end of the sale, students will repay the loan, count their profits and see who had the most profitable business.”

Seventh-grader Lizzy Griffin prepares an “ocean cookie” so that her Ocean Bakery can keep up with customer demand.

Lizzy, Jessalyn and Lizzy each “purchased” ingredients for more than 100 ocean cookies and several lighthouses’­ – or ice cream cones painted with frosting to resemble a lighthouse – for their tropical-themed Oceanside Bakery. Toward the end of the sale, the girls’ appeared to be reeling in a hefty profit.

“Our ocean cookies have been our best seller,” Chapman said. “We weren’t sure if they would sell, but they seem to be very popular.”

Each group of students also created print, television and radio advertisements to entice potential customers. The ads played on an overhead projector screen in the gym while students and parents shopped.

At the end of sale, patrons could vote for their top three picks in categories such as best store design, best television commercial and best product display. First-, second- and third-place winners in each category got additional money to add to their profits.

“Rather than just learning about persuasive techniques and promotions and loans and sales tax, they get to experience it for themselves,” Stallings said. “They realize that it’s a very complex process.”

The girls agreed.

“This project teaches us about accounting and about how hard it is to run a bakery,” Griffin said. “But luckily we only have to run it for an hour.”

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