JuniorBiz wouldn’t exist if we felt that the public school system was already giving kids a fair chance to explore entrepreneurship. Most schools in the U.S. don’t even try.
But Cathy Hettleman has taken on the challenge. She is the new coordinator of ACE Transitions at Ft. Collins High School (FCHS) in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
ACE is a program that has traditionally helped kids develop career skills through special programs and internships. It’s also traditionally full of students who don’t fit the ‘straight-A’ mold. Since Cathy started at the beginning of the year, four of her 18 students have already dropped out of high school.
KLYD’s Closet is Born
But the remaining students have proven that high school is a great place to dive into entrepreneurship. They’ve started a consignment store to sell used, donated, or unclaimed doodads – everything from iPods to old VHS tapes. The only space the school would give the students was a storage closet, so they named their store KLYD’s Closet.
Says Cathy, “I was even surprised we got a closet.”
Since opening in November of 2009, KLYD’s Closet hasn’t exactly been a cash-cow, but it has quietly sold a growing stream of products. The store gives the school a way to get rid of its lost-and-found items, it gives the students a chance to buy products on the cheap during passing periods, and it gives the ACE kids a chance to learn about business by managing and operating one first-hand.
For all this, KLYD’s Closet recently won the ‘Career Education Project of the Year’ award in the Poudre Valley School District. Cathy plans on using the profit from the project (about $800, so far) to give her students and the ACE program more opportunities to grow.
A Closer Look at an ACE Student
While I was chatting with Cathy, we were lucky enough to be joined by James, a senior at FCHS. With long hair and a black ‘Slayer’ t-shirt, some people would guess that his greatest talent was head-banging.
Not so. James was using his class time to create a survey for fellow classmates. It was market research for his grand entrepreneurial plan: bringing in a pair of old-school arcade machines into KLYD’s Closet. At $150 per console and 50 cents per play, James had already calculated how much students would have to play the games during passing periods in order for the revenue to top expenses.
For James, entrepreneurship started with a passion for videogames. He has been buying used videogames at stores, pawn shops, and KLYD’s Closet – then flipping them on eBay and Craigslist for big profit. In one case, James bought ‘Chrono Trigger’ (a 15 year old Super Nintendo game) for $1.00 and sold it back for $50.00.
By using his videogame expertise, James demonstrates what high school kids are capable of accomplishing when somebody gives them the chance.
Where does KLYD’s Closet go from here?
James is just one of 14 students in the ACE program – and they all have unique skills and ideas. Cathy makes a point to encourage all of them. “If they come to me with an idea, I say, ‘Try it’. The word ‘no’ is the worst word for these kids,” she said.
One fresh idea is to resell the slightly wilted or damaged flowers that grocery stores often throw out. The manager of a local Safeway offered to donate imperfect flowers so that ACE could set up a flower shop at FCHS, in a now-defunct security area near the cafeteria.
When you can make money out of something that other businesses just throw away, then you know you’re thinking entrepreneurially. But the flower shop is just one of many ideas for the program to grow; Cathy eventually hopes to make KLYD’s Closet an LLC, give students a cut of any profit, and start a clothing shop in a dusty corner of the school library.
At JuniorBiz, we’re always excited to see educators introducing their students to entrepreneurship. We wish the best of luck to Cathy Hettleman, her students, and all of their entrepreneurial endeavors!
Do you want your high school entrepreneurship program to be spotlit on JuniorBiz.com? Contact us detailing what you’re up to, how you’re doing it and we will get back to you shortly.