With a little help, students turn business tips into profits

UVic’s Kidovate program, which had a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, returns this year, aimed at students aged 12 to 17.

Seventh grader Amira Rudnycka discovered her passion for business during the pandemic, using her sewing machine to produce countless hair ties, tote bags and wall hangings that she sold through social media.

But she wanted to learn more about marketing, sales and working with clients, so she signed up for the University of Victoria’s free Kidovate programme, which was launched in 2019 to introduce young people to the basics of being an entrepreneur.

“It seemed like a fun opportunity to gain experience in marketing and business,” Amira said.

Kidovate, which took a two-year break due to the pandemic, returns this year, targeting middle and high school students, primarily ages 12 to 17.

Students follow a graphic workbook that provides a step-by-step guide on setting up a business. If participants wish, they can arrange to have a student mentor through UVic’s Gustavson School of Business.

The program is flexible and designed to fit into a classroom setting as well as self-employed youth. The UVic approached the schools this year to find out if they wanted to promote it internally. Some did and are running Kidovate in classrooms. Lesson plans have been developed for teachers who wish to engage a class in Kidovate.

The program aims to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, develop business acumen, and instill a sense of corporate social responsibility.

Nolan Kaercher and his friend Sid Napier, both sixth graders at Bayside High School, team up to build products out of cedar and fir logs. They use rounds from the logs to create tabletops, bottle openers, trivets, and coasters. They’ve also wrapped glass milk bottles in hemp, are baking brownies, and will be selling Sid’s brother’s sketches.

They have been working with a spreadsheet and have spent much of their free time this month creating their products under the Sinoly Woodworks name.

This year’s Kidovate program culminates with a market on April 9 at the center court of the Bay Center in downtown from 10 am to 3 pm Up to 70 students will display products and services on tables they will decorate themselves.

The first Saturday after spring break was deliberately selected for the market so that participants had time to prepare products and fine-tune sales pitches.

Nolan said he “definitely” learned a lot about business from participating in Kidovate. Sid said he helped them sort out things like pricing and billboard advertising.

Sid and Nolan products will sell for between $2 and $25 per table. If everything sells, they’ll bring in $933, Sid said.

Kidovate encourages students to contribute to charity, so kids donate 15 percent of their profits to the Canadian Red Cross to help Ukrainians.

Amira will be selling scrunchies for $4 to $6, tote bags for $10, and macrame plant wall hangings and owl wall hangings for $15 to $20. The products are advertised on her Instagram page, instagram.com/tumblingfashion.

Along with her regular products, Amira plans to sell blue and yellow hair ties, bracelets and earrings to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross’s humanitarian work with Ukrainians. Each blue and yellow item will sell for $4. Amira and her friends have already raised $320 for the Red Cross.

Amira is still figuring out how many of each product to make for the market, but she figures it will take 60 hair ties, her best seller, a dozen macrame plant hangers, about five tote bags, and a few drawstring bags.

Georgia Fraser, Amira’s classmate at École Intermediaire Lansdowne Middle School, is another Kidovate participant. Her parents asked her to write a basic business plan for Georgia’s Crafts before enrolling.

Georgia, who makes imitation pearl earrings, necklaces and bracelets, clay earrings and handbags from recycled materials for the market, is eager to develop her entrepreneurial skills, saying, “I love business.”

He borrowed money from his parents to buy supplies and plans to pay them back with his earnings.

Georgia learned a key lesson early on when she needed to buy more materials: “I had to balance my materials so I could make the most of what I had.”

Kidovate has taught her how to market products and understand the competition, said Georgia, who has spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to set up her table to attract as many customers as possible.

She plans to donate 10 percent of the proceeds, including five percent to the Canadian Red Cross to support their work with Ukrainians, and the rest to Muscular Dystrophy Canada, a charity dear to her heart, as her brother has muscular dystrophy.

UVic entrepreneurship professor Brock Smith said 30 students participated in Kidovate’s first year, selling everything from crochet items to bath bombs, soaps and watercolors.

“We are one of the few [business] schools in Canada that have a major in entrepreneurship, so if people are interested in that, there are local solutions that they can go to school to learn more about,” Smith said.

Teacher Tania Chavez of the Victoria School for Ideal Education said 19 students in grades 6, 7 and 8 at her school have signed up for Kidovate this year. “It’s a way of doing math without making it a schoolwork for them.”

They are so interested in doing something and excited to participate that they happily make their articles at home, he said.

Many of the students choose to work in groups on their projects.

Young people are preparing a variety of items for the market, including rings made from forks, candles, bath bombs, stickers and pieces of art, he said.

The next Kidovate program will run in 2023. Smith hopes to someday see 200 to 300 students enroll.

To learn more and connect with the program, visit kidovate.ca.

cjwilson@timecolonist.com

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