During the month of February, P4K 8th grade students learned about the art of entrepreneurship by starting their own businesses selling –you guessed it—popcorn!
“We knew that popcorn would sell well and that the students could imagine all sorts of different ways to make their business unique and set it apart from the other students’ popcorn businesses,” said Partnership 4 Kids Middle School Coordinator, Elizabeth Gerner.
Originality, price-point, product quality and salesmanship all come in to play when trying to edge out the competition. These are a few of the objectives Nautika and her fellow P4K 8th graders considered with their mentors last month, when developing their team business plans.
The students worked in small groups to develop plans that they would then present to a panel of local business men and women, in an approach similar to the popular ABC show, Shark Tank. The business-savvy “Sharks” were tasked with selecting the business plan from the student group presentations which they felt had the best chance for success upon implementation.
During each presentation the panel of Sharks asked the students pointed questions about the logistics and inspiration for their business plans. Nautika believes it was her team’s confidence in their product and their creative approach to the presentation that really won over the panel of Sharks, whom she and her team presented to. “We looked each of the Sharks in the eye and shook their hands before we presented,” Nautika said. “We also had a product theme song that we sang during the presentation,” she added.
Last week, the winning business plans, including Nautika’s team’s plan, were put into action at pop-up locations around the city including: UNO Community Engagement Center, Markel FirstComp Insurance, Hyatt Worldwide Reservation Center and Burlington Place. The goal of each of the student groups was to make a profit that they would put towards their end-of-the-year class parties.
“Generating a profit was the most critical part of the business plans that we reiterated to all the students,” said Holly Olson, Partnership 4 Kids Development Coordinator and Shark panel member. “Making sure that their costs and pricing were realistic for generating a profit and ensuring the students’ creative ideas were also feasible was our main criteria for judgment,” she explained.
Nautika’s team, “Poppin Popcorn” decided to make their popcorn fresh and offer a multitude of salty and sweet mix-ins to make their treats appeal to a wide-range of customer tastes. Nautika explained that by making the popcorn on site, her team’s start-up costs were lower than many of her competitors, who chose to sell a pre-made product. She added that the mix-in options were also very popular. “The cinnamon Red Hots mix-in was our top seller,” she said.
Nautika says she learned a lot about what it takes to run a business from this experience. Although she’s not sure what kind of entrepreneurial opportunities her future holds, she really enjoys making food. “Maybe I’ll start my own restaurant,” she said.