Students show entrepreneurial spirit
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Jan 12, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Students show entrepreneurial spirit

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

Cynthia Brown and Nicole Orr want your business.

The two Stratford high school students are also both presidents of their respective companies in this year's Junior Achievement, a 22-week, hands-on entrepreneurial program that teaches students how to start a business and market a product. It's the fourth year for the program in Stratford.

The learning experience has convinced the young women to pursue the field further.

"A couple of years ago I didn't know what I wanted to do," says Brown, who notes that after three years participating in the program she now plans to attend post-secondary school to study small business and entrepreneurialism, and hopes to one day run her own business.

"You get to realize just how much work goes into starting a business. It's not only creating a product. It's all the paperwork that goes into it … and the whole financial side of it," adds Orr, who is similarly intending to enroll in a business program for next fall.

"It takes a lot of work and it's time consuming," Orr adds. "You definitely have to be dedicated."

Orr's company is called Sew Cool and consists of Central and St. Michael students who have come up with what they hope will fast become the next fad amongst their peers: a pencil case with a built-in pocket on the outside that's large enough to store a calculator or, for those between-class moments, a cellphone.

They're also different than what you might find at the store in that almost every case is unique in the materials used, so no two look exactly the same.

The idea came from team member and VP of production, Amy Kocher, who had already designed one of the cases on her own as an alternative to carrying around a backpack. The group spent its first two weeks brainstorming and analyzing new product ideas before settling on the pencil case. They are manufactured by the group, whose members act like an assembly line.

"We're getting better at it each time; we're getting faster," says Orr, who notes the team has been averaging about five cases per week but hopes to increase that number to better meet demand.

It's less assembly line and more chemistry lab when Brown's group of St. Mikes and Central students, called Body Bliss, gets together at the University of Waterloo Stratford campus to mix and package its product. The group has created what it calls Scentibles, an all-natural peppermint body scrub and two lip balms, one peppermint and the other vanilla, made from beeswax and coconut oil.

"We put our heads together and did some research and came up with an idea we think people will like," says Brown, whose groups started with an idea for a pamper package with additional beauty care products but narrowed its vision to increase the prospective profit margins.

Each team is paired with business leaders in the community who act like mentors and, along with the students, purchased shares in the company that acted as seed money to start production.

Jeff Walsh, owner of The Compudoc, has been helping oversee the young entrepreneurs behind Body Bliss.

"The product is really good. My wife has been using it all the time," he says with a laugh, noting he plans to have samples and order forms at his store soon.

Walsh says he was eager to help because he feels it's important that young people be exposed to real-world job experiences before deciding on their next move after high school.

The two local Junior Achievement teams are competing against one another and other student-led groups in the region. The goal is to earn the most profit. The teams are now ready to take orders online and on Feb. 7 will be participating in a trade show-like event at White Oaks Mall in London to pitch their products in-person. At a later date they will also participate in a Dragons' Den-style competition in which teams pitch their products to investors, minus any real money trading hands.

Orders for Sew Cool's pencil case can be placed through email at sewcoolinc@gmail.com. You can also check out the group's Instagram account, under the same name, for additional photos. Scentibles from Body Bliss is available to order at http://tinyurl.com/bodyblissorder and more information is available on the company's Facebook page.

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