HOLDREGE — Chocolate beef jerky, decorative items, caricatures and first aid supplies were all for sale at the Summer Honors Expo in Holdrege last month.
Summer Honors is a two-week intensive study program staged by Educational Service Unit 11 in Holdrege. According to Tim Burke, former director of gifted education, the SH program started more than 30 years ago. The entrepreneur class was added about 12 years ago.
Teacher Janita Pavelka helped lead 15 high school students through all the steps of starting a business, from choosing a product or service, forming a business plan, production start-up and marketing.
That was just the first week. The program runs from June 9-21. At the end of the first week on June 14 and 15, students operated booths at the Swedish Days street festival in Holdrege.
Several students said that sales were good and many of them came close to breaking even that day.
An expo was conducted on June 20 at the Holdrege Middle School to allow the public to shop indoors and discuss products with the young business operators.
The businesses were diverse, and each owner had their own motivation for choosing their product.
Owen Bridges of Corner Post Photos started with an interest in photography. He worked with a family member to start offering stock photos of Nebraska nature for sale.
Rachel Jack of Eustis said she likes decorating and has enjoyed recycling old jars into candleholders and vases. She turned her hobby into Vintage Is In.
Jacob Chasek of Minden said he “just thought I would try it” about his ChocoJerky business. He said sales were good the first few days, but then dropped off.
“People like the chocolate jerky bacon, but it’s not something you want every day. It’s a once-in-a-while thing,” he said. “But now they’re wanting to buy again.”
One business, Connecting Generations operated by Alex Alber of Holdrege, was the only non-profit in the class. Alber paired volunteers with nursing home residents for social interaction.
Michaela Marcy of Loomis put her drawing talent to work and formed makingFaces, a caricature drawing business. Marcy took photos of customers on her cell phone then later used the photos to make the drawing. She then delivered the final product personally.
Three sisters were in this summer’s entrepreneur class. Mariclaire Prill of Holdrege formed a flip-flop decoration business. Her sister Merrilee operated a hair bow business, and older sister Liana had a marketing graphics business.
In addition to their individual businesses, the class operated two competing concession stands. This involved getting investment money from other SH classes, branding the stand and operating them during break times.
Pavelka said one stand was earning quite a bit more money than the other.
“We do this so the kids learn about competition between businesses,” she said. “It’s very interesting to see how they perform.”
The students donated 10 percent of their profits to a social entrepreneurship project.
Another project involved each student adopting a business space in downtown Holdrege. Students created a vision plan for the adopted business or business site.
The class also built an arcade business as part of the Global Cardboard Challenge. Braden’s Arcade was named in honor of a former entrepreneurship student, Braden Badertscher. He was in cancer treatment during the SH class this year and has since died.
“It’s amazing to see how much the students accomplish during a two-week class,” Pavelka said.
She does entrepreneur work with students, she said, so they are prepared for a business experience that will grow the rural economy. She also does the work “because I enjoy the kids,” she said.
Her next project is the Biz Kidz camp at the University of Nebraska Kearney Aug. 5-8. This camp is appropriate for younger students and is based on a 4-H curriculum.