YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – From concept to reality, students in the Inspiring Minds Summer Enrichment Program brought their entrepreneurial ideas to the Market Day event July 26 at Mollenkopf Stadium at Warren G. Harding High School.
Members from the community browsed past tables showcasing the work of the students, who have spent the summer learning about how a business gets its start. The students were selling a variety of products including body care items, clothing, books, stationery and food – from frozen to fried.
Jordan Wilkins, transition coordinator for Inspiring Minds, said students at the Market Day worked on their businesses all summer long. Placed into groups, they were taught to how to bring a business from the ground level all the way through to fruition. Students learned about concepts such as profit margins, marketing, business loans and production, many of the steps needed to bring a business to life.
“We want them to start thinking about entrepreneurship. … In our community, entrepreneurship isn’t really talked about and it isn’t taught to us. So we want to teach them about avenues of success for them,” Wilkins said. Since the pandemic, even more people have turned to entrepreneurship as a way to make money, he pointed out.
As members of the community walked along the row of table tents in the market, students showed off their sales talents and shared their ideas with potential customers.
Ta’Jon Williamson, a student at Harding, and his group started a clothing brand, Young and Elevated, with the slogan, “Our Goals are Beyond Your Understanding.” Williamson said the brand name came from when he and his friends thought about other teenagers in the area, the dangers they are facing and trouble they get into.
“We want them to wear our name Young and Elevated …we want them to feel like they can have it all. They can be the best they can be… Trying to start a better trend,” he said.
Starting a business was hard at first because they did not know where to start or how to make the shirts, but they have received a lot of support from the staff with Inspiring Minds, Williamson said. His group was still working on their shirts the night before the market.
However, he has learned that if you work hard enough anything can happen.
Inspiring Minds also has taken him to visit places he literally has never been before, including to see the White House and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Camarie Dyer, a seventh grader at McGuffey PK-8 School, broke into a quick sales pitch for her group’s business, IM Sweetz. They made and decorated two flavors of cupcakes, which were on the table along with the chocolate-covered pretzels she and her group made.
“I think this will help me with stuff I want to do when I get older,” Dyer said of her time with Inspiring Minds. Through the program this summer she has gone swimming and gotten a chance to visit businesses such as Toyota and Chick-fil-A. She says she could see herself in business one day.
“I want to be inspiring to everybody around me, like my little brother, my little sisters – like all of them,” she said.
Although there were some disagreements in the group, Dyer said through teamwork and dividing the larger group up to work in smaller groups, they were able to get through challenges and complete the project. She gave a “shout out” to her team member, Chloe Newell, for coming up with the logo.
“This is a great event for our young people in our community and it teaches them so many skills,” said Warren Mayor William D. Franklin, who visited the market. “As you can see, they have a lot of natural ability to sell things. What I do like is they is they are actually promoting, advertising, speaking, learning customer service skills and all of that.”
As he walked from booth to booth, Franklin said he found himself buying soap, books, T-shirts and other items. He is a supporter of Inspiring Minds because of the good things he sees the organization doing in the community as it helps to expand possibilities for children.
“They’re actively engaged and if you give them the opportunity to show their talents, they will never disappoint you, but we just need to give them the opportunities and that is just what this program has been doing since its inception,” he said.
Near one end of the market, aromas lured customers to an area where students were selling a variety of food items, even seasoning and frying French fries fresh on the spot. Lamont Salter, one of the many customers perusing the area, stopped and bought a meatball sandwich from a group of students at Delicious Meatballs.
One of the students, Ty’raj Williamson, said they made the meatballs by hand from scratch and showed a photo of them enjoying rolling meatballs by hand. Making meatballs was easy, but when they had problems with their business, they got help and support from their teacher – and from Deryck Toles, founder and CEO of Inspiring Minds, Williamson said.
Salter’s granddaughter was one of the students selling another item at the other end of the market.
“We need this in this area,” Salter said. “Cause the way it is now, we need to have something for them to do to keep them out of the streets. So I support them all the time.”
Pictured: Ta’Jon Williamson holds up a Young and Elevated t-shirt his group was selling at the market.