Bowsky Elementary fifth-graders get down to business at entrepreneurial fair


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ST. THOMAS - When fifth-grader Alex George thought about what he wanted to do for his own business, he determined he should probably choose something that he knew how to do.

He decided that his business would be "Supreme Massage," in which he would offer hand massages - one hand for $3 and two hands for $6.

"When my grandma is in pain, I rub her down," said George, 11, who had customers lined up for his - indeed - supreme massages Friday morning.

George was one of 21 students who created their own businesses for a class project that culminated in the "Fifth Grade Entrepreneurial Fair" at Yvonne E. Milliner-Bowsky Elementary School on Friday.

Students sold everything from flavored snowcones to mini tarts to beaded jewelry to hand massages.

Parents, teachers and students lined up Friday, paying for the products, or, in George's case, the services.

"Every customer I had, they have been smiling," George said.

At George's booth, he had scented candles, classical music, three types of lotion, hand sanitizer and fresh towels to accommodate his customers. He even watched a video online, teaching him how to properly loosen the muscles and joints.

"He didn't even go all out," said his grandmother, Berecia Robles. "He wanted to bring a foot massager, and have free gifts for each customer."

The students, who worked for nearly two months to develop their own businesses for the fair, displayed not only their businesses, but their own business licenses and customer reviews.

Their teacher, Ava Braithwaite, organized the fair as part of their social studies curriculum.

"I wanted to do something that would be close to real life, but with rigor and relevance," Braithwaite said.

Students were encouraged to think of their own ideas for a business, conduct a survey on how the business would thrive, develop a marketing plan and then invest in whatever they needed to kickstart it. They also had to make commercials for their company, design logos and create fliers.

"One parent even took her daughter to the bank," said Braithwaite.

Braithwaite also had a variety of speakers come into the classroom, including a representative of the Lieutenant Governor's Office, who gave the students applications to register their businesses. Another speaker came in from the V.I. Small Business Development Center.

"It's very hard," said Dainiah Hendricks, 10, who was selling "snowies," or snowcones. "They come back again and again. And some of them are impatient. Dealing with the money is not that hard. You just have to know how much to give back and how much it is."

Some of the students' businesses were more profitable than others, though most of them spent whatever they made at their booths on items at their friends' booths.

Braithwaite said she may or may not do the same activity next year because she likes to mix it up year to year.

In the past, the teacher of more than three decades has brought her students on various stateside travels, had them write letters to President Barack Obama, and had them complete an assortment of "hands-on" projects.

"I want them to be out front. I want them to do what they want to do," Braithwaite said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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