KEARNEY— A dozen middle schoolers hope people will come to Downtown Kearney: The Bricks from 5-7 Thursday evening to shop for items the kids have made and priced themselves.
At the Entrepreneurship Expo, put on by the first UNK Biz Kidz Camp, campers will sell chocolate chip cookies, fishing lures, wallets crafted from duct tape and more.
It’s the youths’ first plunge into the business world. Their instructor is Janita Pavelka, who, since 2007, has taught youth entrepreneurship to 120 middle schoolers in Omaha and Holdrege and brought the program to UNK this week. The expo will be the highlight of the four-day class, which is sponsored by the UNK Center for Rural Research and Development.
“We can talk and talk and talk, but until you sell something yourself, that’s when the learning comes,” Pavelka said.
At class Tuesday morning, Chris Willis, 12, of Kearney showed his classmates the products he had made from duct tape. He held up five styles of wallets, a bracelet, bow ties and drink coasters.
Chris said he had sold his handmade wallets for $3 last summer, but he may change the price Thursday.
“We’ll talk more about cost later, but remember, along with materials, time is money,” Pavelka told him.
Drayden Bellamy, 12, displayed the fishing lures he made under the name D&J Lures. That “J,” he said, is for his middle name, Joel.
“I made these for 53 cents, and I will sell them for $1.50,” he said. He said they attract white bass.
He can make four of them in 10 minutes. He keeps them in a big tackle box. He also sells a “mini-model” lure, for smaller fish, for 50 cents. He has priced lures at $3 in sports stores, so he believes his $1.50 is a fair price.
“Is there a need for this?” Pavelka asked the rest of the class.
“I’d buy ’em!” Richard Hervert piped up. A 13-year-old from Ravenna, Richard hopes to sell small wooden benches Thursday.
Pavelka, a mother of four from rural Holdrege, has kept her entrepreneur wannabes busy this week. She turned them loose with tubs of odds and ends and told them to create something.
She set out fancy hats and old dresses and asked students to pretend to be customers so their classmates could practice selling. The students took the Clifton Youth Strengths Exploratory Test to assess their strengths.
Every day, they have listened to outside speakers, including City Councilman Bruce Lear, a senior vice president at Black Oak Investment Counsel; Hollman Media owner Travis Hollman; Joel Wheeler, a loan officer with Farmers Merchant Bank; and the students who run a coffee shop at UNK.
The campers are making their products at home, but Pavelka repeatedly talked about price, packaging and marketing. “Time is money,” she said again and again.
On Tuesday, Colton Hervert, 11, Richard’s sixth-grade brother, was still pondering what to sell Thursday. He thought about offering to walk dogs, but “I don’t want to do that every single Saturday.”
Corban Preston, a sixth-grader from Kearney, will sell Corban’s Cookies for 25 cents each along with homemade muffins — maybe chocolate chip — for 75 cents. He will make 18 sugar cookies and 18 chocolate chip cookies.
“My mom makes ’em, and they’re delicious,” he said. “The cookie recipe is simple, but it’s not so easy to make brownies.”
Pavelka reminded him, “Value your time.”
She asked him how he will package his cookies. “People need to know they are clean and sanitary,” she said.
Paden Torrey, 11, a sixth-grader at Horizon Middle School, still is considering his options. Megan Warner, 11, of Elm Creek, may sell small bags of puppy chow along with lemonade or Kool-Aid.
Megan Beck, 11, a sixth-grader at Northeast School, will offer Soapy Surprise, packets of soap made from glycerin, with wee ducks, elephants and other tiny animals inside.
Tasha Ritchie, 12, a seventh grader at Kearney Catholic High School, will sell what she calls “top-it cupcakes.” She will make chocolate, white and marble cupcakes that customers can sprinkle with mini M&Ms and other toppings.
Sarah Farritor, 13, also a seventh grader at Kearney Catholic, is likely to offer Slushees with the help of her father Mitch.
Sam Eppler, 13, a student at Sunrise Middle School in Kearney, will bring sugar snap peas and green beans from her garden and sell salsas, jam and other goodies to go with them.
Makenzee Rader, 11, a sixth-grader from Lincoln who is visiting her grandmother, Deb Conley, here will sell root beer float pops for 50 cents and Rice Krispie treat pops for 75 cents. She will also offer eight colorful homemade tie-dyed shirts, all in a boys size large because “that was all they had in the store,” she said.
Pavelka has taught her campers not only how to make a product, but how to sell it. The unwritten test will come on Central Avenue Thursday evening.
“Shyness doesn’t work when you’re selling a product,” she said. “No matter what you make, you are also the one who sells it.”