Plum’s Holiday Park Elementary students explore entrepreneurship through school business
Chloe Lewis has big plans to launch her own business and be successful enough to contribute to local charities.
The Holiday Park Elementary sixth-grader has a head start to her goals through the school’s student-based business.
“I did it last year because I thought it would be fun,” said Chloe, 11. “One day I do want to start a business, and this is to learn how. I learned how to work with a team more and (gained) experience in making (products).”
HP Makers Co. is in its second year. Students are assisted by sixth-grade math teacher Nathan Pfeiffer and fifth-grade math teacher Melissa George.
“We’re here to help them find their way,” Pfeiffer said. “If they have any ideas, if they have any goals, it’s all up to them.”
The business was launched last year with support from Real World Scholars (RWS) and its EdCorps platform. RWS is a nonprofit that works alongside innovative educators to build ways for young people to explore entrepreneurship.
They gave the school tool kits, a $500 startup fund and guidance on how to make the students successful.
Chloe and fellow sixth-grader Ava Miller, 11, were among 15 students who made key chains, mugs and gym bags among other items in their shop’s inaugural effort.
“It helped with a lot of things,” Ava said. “It helped me get introduced to more kids because I’m newer to the district. I felt good being able to see my work, and I liked just being able to do stuff and feel like I’m doing something productive, making something.”
They also designed logos, ran a website, took orders and marketed products.
Equipment used included a 3D printer, 3D carver, heat press and sublimation printer.
Students were able to raise enough money to invest back into the business and donate $350 to the Arthritis Foundation.
“It’s been cool to know that we’re helping out,” Ava said.
Business is booming
HP Makers has grown to 30 students this school year.
Pfeiffer said word about the opportunity spread throughout the school, and some of those who were in it last year told friends about their experiences.
Fifth-graders Juls Devine and Aubrey Shelatz, both 10, are new to HP Makers.
“I think we’re going to learn how to sell things,” Aubrey said. “It will prepare us for when we get older. I wanted to sign up because I thought it would be really cool to be able to work with some of the materials. I’d seen some of the stuff that they created, and thought I would like to try this. I enjoy it.”
Juls was a part of Center Grows last year, a student-driven agricultural business at Plum School District’s Center Elementary.
Students learned similar skills in that program, which is guided by teacher J.R. Pilyih.
“I’ve gotten comfortable with other materials they use,” Juls said. “I’m going to learn some new stuff.”
Pfieffer said Pilyih has offered tremendous support to HP Makers and helped him address various business concerns.
Holiday Park students have started their research phase and may come up with new merchandise.
“We’re casting a whole lot of nets,” Pfeiffer said. “We’ll narrow it down as we go through. Our next couple meetings we’ll start listing some actual products. We’ll talk about who we can market them to, how we can market them. What would be the easiest to bring to market (and) what would be the easiest to advertise.”
Returning students are exited to have a more leadership roles and pass on their knowledge to the newcomers.
“I expect more products, more selling and more opportunities,” Chloe said.
Students work on company plans twice a week.
“I feel like I’ve learned some things that will help me progress,” said Ava. “I kind of know the technology, and that’s useful. Last year was kind of a trial run.”
Holiday Park Principal Fran Sciullo said HP Makers “defines our end of day discovery period experience.” He commended the students and staffers for their efforts.
“We are fortunate to have Mr. Pfeiffer and Mrs. George leading this unique life skill opportunity,” Sciullo said.
Pfeiffer plans to apply for a spot at Handmade Arcade set for Dec. 7 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.
It’s an award-winning annual marketplace full of crafters, makers, designers and artists.
Pfeiffer said 10 student-based businesses will be featured at this year’s event. Keychains, mugs and gym bags are expected to produced again along with new items.
HP Makers products also are sold at school open houses and parent/teacher conferences. People can follow the business on Twitter @HPMakersCo.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdi[email protected] or via Twitter .