High school class goes into business

CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM High School’s small business management class that is selling engraved cups and coasters includes (above photo, back row, from left) Sara Burns, Dakota Peiffer, Dominic Sanfelippo, Jacob Norris, (middle) Luis Gonzalez, Hailei Paulus, Grace Gauger, Jeffrey Vrubley, (front) Owen Williams and Zach Chaudier. Below, Chaudier and Williams stood next to the school’s laser engraver, which is used to put logos on the products. Photos by Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press Staff

While it’s called small business management class, this Cedar Grove-Belgium High School course is operating in the real world.

Students are selling custom-designed cups and coasters as a fundraiser for the school’s career and technical education department, and they’re going through all the steps of running a business.

Small groups of students were given different tasks. They gave feedback to each other and had to work together to make the project go.

The project’s profits reach beyond monetary value. The passion with which students eagerly describe what they are doing and how they learning shows they’re intrigued and inspired by teacher Landa Paradise’s new venture.

Senior Hailei Paulus was in charge of finance, one of the early elements that needed to be figured out. She ordered a few cups to determine a profit margin that took shipping costs into account.

Paulus and senior Sara Burns surveyed students to find out how much they would be willing to pay for the cups and coasters.

“It’s a lot different actually seeing the product and how much customers will actually pay for something,” Paulus said.

Their market research showed that students would pay $20 to $25 for cups.

Then they had to determine what size cups to sell, and they landed on 16-ounce and 30-ounce versions. A logo of a sport, activity or monogram, along with a line of text, is offered.

In crunching the numbers, they came under their target market’s price point. Thirty-ounce metal cups cost $18 and 16-ounce versions are $10. Both sizes bring in about a 15% profit margin with the larger ones providing slightly higher revenue.

Creating order forms was next. Trying a fill-in-the-blank PDF didn’t work, and it wasn’t free.

Burns instead settled on Google Forms and created a few variations “while still keeping in mind to preserve paper and ink.”

 She sought input from her classmates about the forms’ look and ease of ordering.

“This was her idea to have people check it,” Paradise said.

Burns figured out it would be cost prohibitive to print forms in color, so they were done in black and white.

Figuring out how to allow for online purchases took hours.

Two students attending school online, Dominic Sanfelippo and Dakota Peiffer, created a website for the class store. Paradise had them do it on their own.

“I don’t give them a lot of direction,” she said. “I just said to these guys, ‘Create a website in Google Sites.”

The site includes product photos and a brief description of the fundraiser, telling people that the class is doing its own engraving. A link to the order form and an “about us” section that explains what the class learns are also included.

Sanfelippo said he went to websites such as American Eagle and Amazon for inspiration.

“They got a template and put it together. I try to stay out of it as much as possible,” Paradise said.

The site has a logo for the class as well. Students voted on their favorite, and Sanfelippo’s won.

Last week, he was looking for feedback on the site.

“I hope to get suggestions from the rest of the class to make it better,” he said.

Before products could be made, the class had to run its idea by Principal Josh Ketterhagen in the form of a business proposal. Sophomores Grace Gauger and Jacob Norris were in charge of that.

They had to summarize what the class is doing, the target market, structure for prices and why materials were purchased.

Neither had done such a project before and searched online for examples.

Gauger said she learned about diction and style.

“A business proposal to a principal shouldn’t be using words I text with,” she said.

Gauger and Norris also created a flyer to send around the school and wrote a piece for the district newsletter, the Rocket Report. They planned to seek advice from the Cedar Grove and Belgium chambers of commerce.

“You’re learning good skills for after high school,” Gauger said.

“It’s different than a normal class,” Norris said. “It’s like a real business. We’ll get to see something come out of it.”

When products were ready to be made, the class’s four engravers got to work.

Through trial and error, they quickly learned the difference between engraving coasters and cups.

“The flatter stuff was a lot easier,” senior Jeffrey Vrubley said, adding that logos would be warped on curved cups.

“It’s 100% disappointing,” he said of watching the engraver make a soccer ball in the shape of an egg.

They set up templates on a computer while a separate program translated the designs to the engraver. The group figured out a small cup takes just less than five minutes to engrave and large ones a little longer.

To save time, the four will do all orders with the same logo at one time so they don’t have to keep swapping templates.

Multiple coasters can be placed into the engraver and be customized at one time.

The engravers make sure to brand their products, including the class’s logo on each one.

The real-world project came as a welcome surprise to students who are more accustomed to studying, rather than executing, other businesses.

“When we walked into this class second semester I was not expecting to run our own business,” senior Zach Chaudier said.

“This is a great learning experience,” Vrubley said. “We literally have a business now, and we’re going to be selling these things.”

Vrubley wonders if the project will continue next year.

“There’s always a need for Rocket merch,” he said.

For more information, visit sites.google.com/cgbrockets.com/sbmstore/home.



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