School trains the next generation of young entrepreneurs

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BENNINGTON — Fourth and fifth graders at Bennington Elementary tried their hands at entrepreneurship in the school's first Business Fair.

Groups of students hawked their wares to their younger classmates, parents, and teachers for an hour in the gymnasium on Friday morning. There were games for prizes, food and drink, and even souvenirs. Librarian Nichole Forest said that students had been working on their business plans for about a month and a half.

Forest said the materials for the program came from the Vt. State Treasurer's Office's Reading is an Investment Program, through which the school's library receives three elementary school-appropriate books on personal finance and other economic concepts. The students read and worked with those books over the winter, then began investigating products they could sell, the expenses involved, and how much capital they would need to finance the project.

During the fair, students kept meticulous track of their sales. After, they tallied up how much they had earned and subtracted the expenses, which had to be paid back to the parents and teachers that had donated them. The remaining profit was deposited into their classroom activity funds.

"Once kids go through this, they'll know that businesses are a lot of work, but they can be a lot of fun and give you a good income," said Forest.

Some of the students had more success with their first venture into the business world than others. A group of girls who were selling decorated pillows found that, because the pillows were too expensive to produce, they weren't likely to even make back their initial investment. On the other hand, another group which was selling paracord survival bracelets had already made about $13, after spending on $5 on materials.

Select Board member Jeannie Jenkins, who also serves on the Bennington County Industrial Corporation's Workforce and Education working group, was thrilled to seeing the students exploring the concepts of operating their own businesses at such an early age, calling the fair an entrepreneurship lab. "This is a great age to start doing this!" she said.

Forest said the fair is something she hopes to bring back each year for as long as she is teaching at the school.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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