The budding entrepreneurs at Burns Elementary considered selling shoes and T-shirts. But they lacked the start-up capital for that kind of inventory.
So at the beginning of last semester, they settled on their own version of a corner store, selling snacks after school to their teachers, principals and classmates. And they agreed all the money they'd make would go to Kids Against Hunger, a nonprofit that feeds starving children.
WINGS for Kids, a Charleston-based after-school program, supervised and funded the venture with an initial investment of no more than $200, said WINGS program Director Mallory Dorsey. But a group of a dozen fourth- and fifth-graders in the WINGS program managed every aspect of the semester-long project.
They named their business Dab On 'Em Snacks after the viral dance move popularized by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. They chose which products they wanted to stock and WINGS staffers purchased them from Sam's Club. They promoted the store with fliers around schools.
To keep costs down, they solicited donations from grown-ups.
At marked-up prices ranging from a quarter to $2, they sold treats, candy, Kool-Aid and bags of chips. They even experimented with different kinds of merchandise. Healthier options, such as bottled water and veggie chips, didn't sell well, while hot dogs were a hit at an afternoon talent show. And they learned one of the first lessons of business: You have to spend money to make money.
"I told them they had to use their own money, and (at first) they only gave us $60 to go to the store, so they didn't have enough supplies," Dorsey said. "We had to go back and revisit the amount (of snacks they needed) and what the prices are."
Students at Burns know how it feels to go without food, noted WINGS leader Katherine Guadamud, who supervised the project. Nearly 95 percent of the students at the North Charleston school live in poverty, according to state Education Department data.
"Most of them understand that kids at their schools and even some of themselves are struggling financially or with hunger," Guadamud said. "They wanted something close to them, something they understand."
All told, Dab On 'Em Snacks raised $113.43 for Kids Against Hunger. Dorsey said WINGS students at Burns will launch another enterprise next school year and perhaps, raise money for a different charity.
"The kids are still talking about it," said Dorsey, who also runs a summer program at Burns. "They can't wait for next year."