Stillwater TREP$ teaches entrepreneurial skills

25 students take part in the marketplace

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  • Jamie Whitby sells the ornaments he made at the TREP$ Marketplace. Photos Provided

  • Ornaments designed and created by Jamie Whitby.

By Laurie Gordon

— Jamie Whitby loves Christmas. He always has. Last week, the sixth grader at The Stillwater Township Elementary School joined peers at The TREP$ Marketplace where they sold items they'd contrived and made themselves. His product was Christmas ornaments.

For many weeks, teachers Lisa Hutcheson and Lorraine Bickhardt have been working with the students, teaching them how to come up with a “business” for the markeplace. Students have to create their product to sell, come up with a viable price point, name the business, and on TREP$ evening, do their best to sell as much of their product as they can to peers and members of the community.

Said Hutcheson, “I can't remember how long we've done this. We have done it at least 10 yrs! We have done it together the entire time. We have it down to a well-oiled machine, making it our own,and tailoring it to the students involved each year.”

This year, twenty five kids participated. Their businesses were as follows (due to policy, just their first manes are listed): ALL Ariana's Luxurious Lotions (Ariana), Peyton's Perfect Puppy Treats (Peyton), Dominic's Pinecone Mania and More (Dominic), Colin's Christmas Winter Wonderland (Colin), Anthony's Sports Wreaths (Anthony), Burke's Bathworks (Delaney), Mason Jar Madness (Tyler), Merry Christmas Jars (Madison), De-Stress (Patrick), Bright Designs (Rachel), Words with a Meaning (Sophia), Face Mask (Kaleb), Lumber Josh Store (Josh), Jamie's Ornaments (Jamie), Perfect Post-Its (Aiden), Teagan's Hair Suppplies (Teagan), Poppin Popsockets (Hunter), Johnny's Hot Cold Packs (John), Light 'Em Up (Julie), JJ's Fidget's (JJ), Austin's Wooden Toys (Austin), Pete's Ornaments (Peter), Opposites Attract (Brooke), Isabela's Beautiful Bags (Isabella), and Stilwater Puppy Farm (Yuki).

“The TREP$ program is one of Stillwater School's many traditions, and excitement surrounding the program reaches a fever pitch during the holiday season,” said Matt Robinson, the school's Superintendent. “What most don't realize though, is that students begin preparing for the event in October! Through the program, they learn the uniquely American values of hard work, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity. Students also learn basic economics, including the concepts of supply and demand, profit, and more.” He added, “While TREP$ may exist in other schools, Stillwater's students and the support of their community make it a tremendously special event for everyone.”

“There are pros to starting a business and these students get to see real money at the end of the night,” Hutchenson said. “They love answering questions about their products, and they feel incredibly proud that they did it and succeeded. One of the cons though, many of the teachers and community members come to the event and students often think all teachers should buy from each of them. That's just not reality, and even with that concept built into our workshop, students still get disappointed if they see people they know buying from others and not them. Another con, they realize it is hard work and takes some organization to run a business.”

Hutchenson said, “One of our biggest challenges was eliminating food from our Market Place. We decided to follow the guidance of the Trep$ Ed, LLC, and removed food as a product choice from our program. With health, safety, and allergies as concerns, we made this decision in our school district. Students who had siblings or friends that were part of Trep$ in the past, were ready to do their own food products. They were disappointed, however, they were so creative that their products turned out to be fabulous. I think that, our biggest challenge, turned into our biggest reward-great creative products that were different than many from years prior.”

The students that joined Trep$ at this age were ready to try something new. In a relatively short period of time, they learn so many aspects of owning a business.

“When they are successful, they want to continue it,” Hutchenson sad. “All of the students told us that in our follow-up meeting that if we ran the program in the spring again. Each one said they would participate again. Some students said they might even try a new product. t seems that once they have the foundational skills for owning a business, the sky's the limit.”

Whitby said, “I chose to do ornaments for my business because the TREP$ Marketplace was so close to Christmas, I figured they'd sell well.”

He was right. He sold out.

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