The students at Chandler Park Middle School in Harper Woods took part in the school’s first Market Day May 17. After weeks of preparation, the students taking part in the Youth Entrepreneurs program opened their own businesses to sell items to students.

The students at Chandler Park Middle School in Harper Woods took part in the school’s first Market Day May 17. After weeks of preparation, the students taking part in the Youth Entrepreneurs program opened their own businesses to sell items to students.

Photo provided by Thomas Staperfenne


Chandler Park Middle School students get hands-on about business

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 17, 2019

 Many of the students taking part in Chandler Park Middle School’s Market Day chose to sell snacks and other treats.

Many of the students taking part in Chandler Park Middle School’s Market Day chose to sell snacks and other treats.

Photo provided by Thomas Staperfenne

HARPER WOODS — Students in Chandler Park Middle School’s Youth Entrepreneur program rolled up their sleeves and got to work starting their own businesses as part of the school’s Market Day program.

The 100 students in the program, who take it as a class during the school day, sell their goods to other students and staff at Chandler Park Middle School and Chandler Park High School on Market Day after weeks of preparing their businesses and doing research into how to make them successful.

This is the first year the program has been at Chandler Park Middle School, although the Youth Entrepreneur program is a nationwide program. Thomas Staperfenne was a teacher in Detroit who was part of the program and thought it would be a good fit for Chandler Park Middle School when he joined the teaching staff.

“Youth Entrepreneurs is a program where students work in groups and they create their own businesses and they do all the work a real business would do,” Staperfenne explained. “This includes market research, seeing who their customers are and cost analysis, and then they pitch the idea to me in a ‘Shark Tank’ like setting. They say they need X amount of dollars, and based on their pitch I give them funding for the business.”

The students’ businesses, such as snack shops and ice cream parlors, were set up in the school’s gym and were open for sale May 17.

“In total, we had 14 businesses and I gave out $1,600,” said Staperfenne. “So those 14 businesses used that money to go out and (they) bought everything they need — appliances, supplies, ice — and then today they sold what they made through that business. In doing this, they learn how to start a small business on a small scale and see how all that hard work and math and research pays off.”

Chandler Park Middle School is one of dozens of schools across the country that takes part in the program.

“Youth Entrepreneurs gives the money to me, and I give it to the kids when they pitch me the ideas. We take the profits and give it back to the Youth Entrepreneurs program. They’ve been doing this for 25 years now across the country. … The kids who make the most money do get prizes like gift cards.”

Many of the students said they learned a lot about starting and running a business and just about interacting with potential customers in general. The students who started the Variety Shack snack shop said they were successful because they looked at who they were trying to sell to, for instance.

“We chose this business because everyone is 16 years old and lower, and they like chips and pop and junk food,” said eighth grader Reggie Plant. “We learned teamwork and how to organize a project together. When you learn the best age group to make money from, you know what you need to sell.”

They said they also learned about the importance of a good image and leaving a positive impression on customers.

“Business can be a very hectic process and it’s really about presentation,” said eighth grader Trenton Jones. “If you have a dirty space or it’s disorganized, people wouldn’t come by or know what you have to sell. They have to want to come to the booth, and then they have to see you have something they want.”

Other students, like those running Sweet Retreat Ice Cream Cupcakes, said they learned some more general lessons about running a business.

“Don’t buy too much,” remarked eighth grader Carlean Walls. “We’re at the end of the day and we still have tons of cupcakes we’re trying to sell.”

“When you’re running low on customers, lower your prices,” added eighth grader Khadidja Fall. “And make sure they understand what you have.”

The Chandler Park Middle School staff said lessons like those the students learned are ones that they will carry with them long after they leave the classroom.

“They are not learning vocab words or something on a quiz; they are learning how to actually use these skills and put them into practice,” Staperfenne remarked. “They learn about topics like scarcity, subcost, how to market items and how to find out what customers want. They learn real-world skills like how to work in groups and coordinate on a project too big for one person.”