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Lessons Beyond the Classroom

Entrepreneurship students gain real experience.

Students of the business called Chantilly Kollection are (from left) Amy Goffe, Adam LaBrecque, Emily Gembarowicz and Steve Aanstoos.

Students of the business called Chantilly Kollection are (from left) Amy Goffe, Adam LaBrecque, Emily Gembarowicz and Steve Aanstoos. Photo courtesy of Shelley Gaffin

— Buying and selling merchandise, using skills they learned in class and having a good time doing it, Chantilly Academy entrepreneurship students recently participated in the third annual Entrepreneurship Market Day.

“Each year, we offer a trip to N.Y.C.’s Wholesale District,” said entrepreneurship and marketing teacher Shelley Gaffin. “As part of our curriculum, students use a $50 loan as seed money to purchase items from the Wholesale District. They demonstrate negotiation skills and work to buy low so they can sell high at Market Day.”

Some 121 students are enrolled in the entrepreneurship program and, in December, 54 of them took the trip to New York. FATE (Foundation for Applied Technical Education) lent them the money they needed so they could buy items they’d later resell at Market Day at their school.

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Working for The Log Cabin business are Erin Miller (in center, writing a receipt) and Jon Branner (far right) helping a customer.

But first, the students did their homework. Prior to their trip, they all conducted market research to see what items would be popular with their “target market” of Chantilly faculty, staff and students. Based on the results, they purchased a variety of items — such as jewelry, hats, scarves, gloves and iPhone cases — in New York.

Then, when they returned to the classroom, the students formed small businesses that included students who went on the trip, as well as those who did not. Students were responsible for coming up with a name and slogan for each of their businesses.

They also had to design a logo, price their products and run their firm’s day-to-day operations. And they had to do it all with the goal of providing outstanding customer service and turning a profit.

“Senior entrepreneurship students Maddy Ley and Lindsay McLarty were tasked with managing the entire Market Day event, since the business they are starting in class is an event-planning business,” said Gaffin. “Maddy and Lindsay created the theme, ‘Christmas in New York,’ designed invitations and marketing materials, and coordinated the entire event.”

Market Day ran two days in a row, during all lunches in the Chantilly High cafeteria, and featured 19 student-run businesses involving all 121 entrepreneurship students.

“Our students made just under $2,000 in profit, and each individual business was profitable,” said Gaffin. “The entire experience was a huge success — not only for the program — but more importantly, for the students.”

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The HandCandy employees are (from left) Allison Ruiz, Alison Litvin, Desiree Richards, Kelsey Rivera, Kara Perdue and Manasa Pallapolu.

“Each year, I make a proposal to FATE for seed money and, for the past three years, they’ve provided funding for us with the understanding that we pay them back,” she continued. “The students know their main goal is to at least break even so they can pay their loan back. Anything they make above that is profit that is split between them and the entrepreneurship program.”

The Chantilly Academy currently offers Entrepreneurship 1, which is dual-enrolled through Northern Virginia Community College and only open to juniors and seniors. And because it’s an Academy course, students from other schools may also enroll.

Delighted with its success, Gaffin said, “This class has taken off like gang-busters.” So for the next school year, 2012-2013, the program will expand to also offer Entrepreneurship 2. It will just be open to seniors and will also be dual-enrolled. For more information, contact Gaffin at mbgaffin@fcps.edu.