As the lunchtime crowd wandered by on Main Street, Jameka Harmon, Chianna Spencer and Taylor Scott manned a table in front of the old Abbott’s Shoe Repair, selling handcrafted alcohol ink paintings, painted rocks and “galaxy jars” made from cotton balls, paint and glitter mixed together in mason jars.
The pop-up business was the culmination of a weeklong entrepreneurship program hosted at the University of Delaware. Approximately 20 high school students split into teams to develop and run their own businesses for one day.
“Even though we all go to businesses everyday, we don’t think about the process of starting one,” Spencer, a rising senior at Delcastle High School, said. “We learned that it’s not as easy as it looks.”
This week marked the eighth year the EntrePrep program has been held in Newark.
The students stayed in UD dorms for a week and started with three days of intensive lessons about financial literacy, creating a business plan, intellectual property and other business topics. They also toured Caffé Gelato and heard owner Ryan German talk about how he started the restaurant.
Then, they spent two days brainstorming their own business ideas – developing a business plan, creating a budget, pitching the idea to their teachers, getting a business permit from the city, seeking permission from a Main Street business owner to set up shop on their property and manufacturing the inventory.
“We teach them from beginning to end how to create a business plan,” said Nica Mayer, strategic initiatives director for the program.
On Thursday, the students spread out across downtown Newark selling everything from snacks to tie-dye T-shirts to handmade soap. Another group ran a kickball tournament behind the Perkins Student Center.
EntrePrep provides the start-up funds, which the students pay back with proceeds from their business. If there’s money left over, the students can keep it or choose to donate it to charity.
EntrePrep is run by a nonprofit called Economic Ventures in collaboration with UD. The nonprofit funds the program, and UD allows the students to stay in the dorms for free, director Carrie McIndoe said.
McIndoe, who has helped raise start-up funds for several large companies, said she sees the program as a way for her to give back and help kids get the foundation in business and financial literacy skills that she wishes she had.
“No one taught me this. I made so many mistakes,” she said. “I should have learned this in high school.”
McIndoe is from New York, but was inspired to create EntrePrep after getting to know a UD professor who had his graduate students do a similar “business for a day” program. She formed a partnership with UD and has returned to Newark each year to run the program, which is open to all local high school students, with a focus on those attending vocational schools.
She said she doesn’t expect all the students to go into business but hopes the program instills in them an understanding of what it takes to run a successful business.
“We want them to appreciate small businesses and how hard it is,” she said.
That’s a lesson that wasn’t lost on Lucy Baker and Kiana Frawley, who were selling scented soap in front of Switch Skate and Snow.
“Making a business is pretty hard, but it’s a lot of fun and all your hard work pays off in the end,” said Baker, who goes to school in Pennsylvania.
The girls said they turned to internet videos to learn the finer points of soap making.
“It’s something easy to make that all people use,” Frawley, a rising Concord High School sophomore, said, explaining why they chose that for their business.
They donated their proceeds to For Pete’s Sake, a nonprofit that sends cancer patients and their families on vacation. Baker’s family benefited from the charity when she was younger.
Kahliel Nichols and Ma’Kennzie Castillo, both students at Delcastle, were planning to organize a 5K race for their project but realized they didn’t have enough time to obtain the permits they would need. Instead, they settled for selling the chips and drinks they had planned to hand out to 5K participants.
“We learned a lot about time management,” Castillo said. “We only had two or three days to figure something out.”
Nichols said he appreciated learning job-seeking skills.
“You learn a lot about yourself as you write your résumé,” he said.
Brianna Deshommes, Feyi Sayo and Gharem Santos sold cake pops in front of the Main Street Galleria. Deshommes is experienced in the cake pop business, selling the treats to her classmates at Delcastle.
“We thought it would be a good idea to branch out to other people,” she said.
Santos said the project helped her with her communication skills.
“You have to get out of your comfort zone,” she said.
A short distance away, near the UD Green, Raven Brooks and her T-shirt business were sharing a table with Jaheim Harris, T’onna Saunders and Korryn Braxton-Young, who were selling Rice Krispies Treats.
“I learned the ups and downs,” Brooks, a rising senior at Delcastle, said. “I think I’ll have more knowledge about how businesses can be run.”
McIndoe said she always enjoys seeing how much the students learn from their week of hands-on experience.
“It’s a transformation,” she said. “We meet them on a Sunday, and they walk out completely different. That entrepreneurial mindset will never leave them.”