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Entrepreneurship : For Good

60 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All

Cincinnati mom's inventiveness leads to small biz, charity partnership

When Cincinnati native and mom Shelby Mckee wanted to be comfortable and wear flats to a Bengals game on a cool October day, she wasn’t willing to sacrifice her warmth by wearing no-show socks or “footies,” so she got creative.
 
“I grabbed my husband’s dress socks and cut a hole in the top of them, and that’s where the journey began,” Mckee says.
 
Three years later, in August 2012, she and her two sisters, Christy and Stefanie, launched Keysocks—the first-ever no-show knee high socks to reach the market.
 
“Coming together with my sisters and having a business together has been amazing,” says Christy Parry.
 
But perhaps more amazing, Perry says, is that the company, after just two years of existence, is now able to partner with a charitable organization.
 
“My sister Stefanie is a cancer survivor, so last year, we had donated Keysocks to Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research’s gala,” Mckee says. “They reached out to us again because they loved the socks so much that they wanted to partner with us, so we ended up putting their angel logo on the back of the socks, and 100 percent net proceeds go to their foundation.”
 
The partnership kicked off last month and will continue through Sept. 1, 2015. The goal is to sell at least 15,000 pairs to directly fund blood cancer research.
 
“To have a foundation we could partner with and be able to give back to means so much,” Parry says. “And Keysocks—we just couldn’t have a better connection with it being to cancer, with my sister”—(Gabrielle was also one of three sisters)—“and being able to give back in the early stages of such a small startup.”

Do Good:

•    Support cancer research by purchasing a special edition pair of Keysocks.

•    Support Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for Cancer Research by donating.

•    Connect with Keysocks and Gabrielle's Angel Foundation on Facebook.

Unique shopping model benefits nonprofits

Six local nonprofits will benefit from purchases made at Treasures 4 Charity, an upscale resale shop located in East Walnut Hills.
 
Store owner Valerie Duplain, a retiree who says she’s always been involved with charities, operates the shop five days a week on a completely volunteer basis so that 70 percent of an item’s selling price goes directly toward funds for the the six partners: Caracole, Faces Without Places, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, Prospect House, Freestore Foodbank and the Walnut Hills Kitchen.
 
“The theory kind of is, if you go to Caracole and say you have a chair, they can’t do anything with it, but if you bring it here, I can sell it,” Duplain says. “Even if you get $100 dollars a month to some of these charities, it’s a huge thing for them.”
 
Duplain, who lives in the neighborhood, says she opened the shop because she saw it as the perfect opportunity to not only do something fun, but to also give back to small nonprofits who she says are having a difficult time, particularly now.

Her goal for 2015 is to provide each nonprofit with $5,000 dollars. 
 
“In this economy, it really is a good thing if you can help,” Duplain says. “And it’s a fun shop—95 percent of people who come in are repeat customers—and you don’t find something every time you come in, but you can look around and really see some unique things.” 

Do Good:

•    Support one of the six nonprofits on your own. 

•    Donate items to the shop, and go check out what's available. 

•    Contact Valerie if you're interested in volunteering.
 

Fifth Third Bank offers free job toolkit

With so many means of finding employment, job seekers are apt to get overwhelmed. Fifth Third Bank is offering a free online toolkit to assist in the struggle of job hunting as part of its Reemployment campaign. It’s free for everyone, not just Fifth Third customers.

"The campaign makes online job training modules available to any job seeker who wants to freshen up their job search skills," says Maria Veltre, Fifth Third Bank's chief marketing officer. "The 'Job Seekers Toolkit' from NextJob, which is typically reserved for Fifth Third customers, includes useful resume, job search and interview preparation tips for job seekers."

This campaign highlights three different individuals who have a common goal: finding work.

"Through our Reemployment campaign," Veltre adds, "we are working with three real-life unemployed job seekers who are willing to put themselves really out there,­ in hopes of shedding light on what unemployment is really like."

The videos feature Katrina Holmes, Elba Pena and Bill Laakkonen.

"Every time one of their stories is shared via social media, their virtual network will expand, Veltre says. Additionally, "retweets to reemploy" will also help fund one-on-one coaching for other unemployed job seekers. "For every 53 retweets, Fifth Third and Next Job will fund a scholarship for the one-on-one job coaching for one deserving individual, up to 53 total scholarships."

For more information on Fifth Third Bank's and NextJob's Reemployment campaign visit http://reemploy.53.com/about-nextjob-campaign.

NKU students use grafitti as vehicle to fund nonprofits

For students like Jason Hulett, community-building events are invaluable when it comes to presenting ideas, raising awareness, sparking conversations and making a difference in the lives of others.
 
GraffitiFest, which took place last week, constitutes one of those events, says Hulett, a Northern Kentucky University senior entrepreneurship major and GraffitiFest lead organizer.
 
“I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have graffiti on campus? And then, wouldn’t it be cool if we could provide graffiti to people on campus? And if we’re going to hold an event, we might as well do it for a good cause,'” Hulett says.
 
So likeminded students from an event planning class came together to bring graffiti artists, local musicians, vendors, teams of entrepreneurship students and the general public together to raise awareness and funds for nonprofits who provide relief to others.
 
“We wanted to show graffiti in a positive light because it gets a bad rep with vandalism and all that. But if we were going to raise money, we wanted to do it for social good and not just personal gain,” Hulett says. “So it goes toward artists and nonprofits—no CEOs—the university makes no money off this. So that was important to us.”
 
Proceeds from the event, in which graffiti artists’ work from the day was auctioned off, totaled about $1,500 dollars, which will be split down the middle to benefit artists as well as charities.
 
“It was a celebration of an artform that we think is underutilized and underappreciated, and it created an opportunity for something different to shine in a light that’s more positive,” Hulett says. “Some of the causes of the nonprofit—especially Revive the Heart with human trafficking—people don’t want to hear about that. But if you present it in that kind of format, you get a better response because people are more willing to participate.” 

Do Good:

• Like GraffitiFest's Facebook page, as the students plan to make this at least an annual event. 

• Follow GraffitiFest on Twitter.

• Support local artists and nonprofits you're passionate about.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


UC promotes inventiveness, innovation among students

University of Cincinnati associate professor Catalin Macarie says he wants the next innovation like Google or Facebook to come from a UC student.
 
In order to help make that happen, he took on a leadership role in rebranding the Innovation Quest Elevator Pitch, which he expanded from last year to create a university-wide opportunity, open to all majors.
 
“My ultimate goal, and this is pretty much my dream: to stop the brain drain that happened for so many years in Cincinnati,” Macarie says. “And get all these students the opportunity to stick around and continue with their ideas to have support, money and a place to help make this a solid, thriving community for young entrepreneurs, innovators and young startups.”
 
Macarie put this year’s event together, as 113 registered teams of students were given 90 seconds to present their pitches to judges and potential investors from within the local entrepreneurship community.
 
Cash prizes of up to $1,000 dollars were awarded for the top three ideas at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and a separate award was set aside for a social enterprise.
 
The money is intended to help kick-start a plan of action, and in the case of this year’s winners, it covers everything from innovations with footwear to pharmaceuticals. 
 
“It’s all about the spirit and getting the confidence,” Macarie says. “It’s about carrying out the name of UC. It’s not inert—it’s an active, dynamic position for UC to work with the entrepreneurship community, with innovation—it’s a nice synergy going forward where every side is really helping each other.”
 
Do Good:

• Keep up with the event website, and get involved in next year's competition. 

• Spread the word. 

Connect with Catalin Macarie if you're interested in sponsoring a student or learning about a project.
 
By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Philanthropic biz recognized for creating positive social and environmental impact

A 17-year long career in consulting wasn’t enough for Kelly Dolan, co-founder and CEO of Ingage Partners. There was something missing.
 
“Myself and my business partner Michael Kroeger got to the point in our careers where we felt like there was something different we could be doing that’s more purposeful and more fulfilling,” Dolan says.
 
“So we decided to start up Ingage Partners with the prospect of leveraging what we know—the consulting industry—to create a company that thinks differently, and hopefully inspires and engages people to think differently.”
 
After just three years of being in business, Ingage Partners has already etched its place in the B Corp (benefit corporation) community, as it was recently recognized for creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact by nonprofit B Lab, with the release of its B Corp Best for the World list.
 
“The model that B Corp is trying to present is this idea that, ‘No, my company’s not best in the world. We’re trying to be the best for the word,’” Dolan says.
 
Ingage is one of 92 businesses worldwide recognized, which puts it in the top 10 percent of the 990 total B Corporations nationally.
 
According to Dolan, when she and Kroeger started Ingage, they knew they wanted a strong focus on giving back to the community.
 
So, each year, the company gives 25 percent of its profits to charity. Ingage employees are also given four hours per month for paid volunteer time off. And there’s a program in place where Ingage matches donations of its employees when they give to an organization or cause they’re particularly passionate about.
 
“What we’re trying to do is inspire and engage people to do things differently—try to give back more to the community so that our business can be used for that force for good,” Dolan says. “It’s about modeling that. It’s about our employees giving of their talents, giving of their time, as well as building some momentum around this idea of using business for good.” 

Do Good: 

• Use the #bthechange hashtag to show how you're using business as a force for good. 

• Consider ways you can begin to use business for good. It starts with an individual. 

• Like Ingage Partners on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Local twins found nonprofit, collect books for kids in need

For 11-year old twins Hannah and Alex Laman, reading books is a shared passion.
 
“It gives you a chance to visualize everything in your head—like movies—you just see it when you read,” Hannah says. “I go to the bookstore a lot—and I just can’t imagine not reading or having books to read.”
 
So in 2011, when Hannah and Alex’s parents shared a newspaper article about students at Quebec Heights Elementary School who were without books, the seed for Adopt A Book was planted.
 
“We wanted to be able to help them, because it didn’t seem like any other people were, and we felt like we needed to,” Hannah says.
 
So Hannah and Alex collected their first book donation to deliver to the school. But their efforts to help others didn’t stop there.
 
“They really wanted it to be an organization they could be responsible for, and [through which they could] provide even more,” says Angela Laman, Hannah and Alex’s mother.
 
So they formed the nonprofit Adopt A Book, and since November of 2011, they’ve delivered more than 37,000 books to students who are at-risk or in need.
 
The nonprofit operates out of the Laman residence, and Angela and her husband take Hannah and Alex on book runs, where they deliver about 800 books at a time.
 
“My husband and I both work full-time, so we have other commitments, and they have other things going on with their sports and extracurriculars, and we never thought, ‘OK, let’s carve out 10-20 more hours a week toward this venture, which wasn’t something we ever expected,” Laman says. “But we’ve just supported their efforts, and we’re glad that we did. It’s been an eye opening experience for all of us.”
 
Laman says the twins don’t truly understand why there’s such a need and that it’s disheartening that the need is so high (they’ve delivered books to 47 different places), but it’s important to her children to continue collecting books and taking them to children who are less privileged than themselves.
 
“It’s so important that people donate books, because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have any books,” Alex says. “And we need books to donate because they help kids learn to say more words—they know more, they can learn in books.” 

Do Good:

Support Adopt A Book by helping the Lamans purchase a laptop or tablet for their work. 

Support Adopt A Book by donating new or used books, in addition to things like office supplies and gas cards to help with deliveries.

• Like Adopt A Book on Facebook, and contact the Lamans if you would like to volunteer with deliveries or offer space as a book collection/storage site. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


 

Lower Price Hill Community School set to expand community outreach

In the coming months, the Lower Price Hill Community School will undergo a name change as it expands services to focus its efforts on education and improving the community through two nonprofits: Education Matters and Community Matters.
 
“But the Lower Price Hill Community School is not going away,” says Mike Moroski, LPHCS director of outreach services. “The administration’s staying the same. We’re not only going to be providing the same services we always have—we’re going to provide them on a larger scale—plus offer new services to the community.”
 
Moroski will transition into the role of director for Community Matters, which he says will function as a safe haven for residents, while offering access to more community events and opportunities.
 
“One of the things I’ve always been attracted to about LPHCS is they’re not interested in coming into the community and saying, ‘Here’s what you need to be better,’” Moroski says. “They’re interested in finding out what the community wants and then providing it.”
 
Lower Price Hill, for example, has no laundromat; so the nonprofit is working with Xavier University to launch one through the Washing Well project, which will eventually be turned over to the neighborhood as a co-op.
 
A business plan is currently in the works, and Moroski says the long-term vision is to work with Xavier University professors to offer a business incubator course, which would be open to anyone—Lower Price Hill resident or not—who would eventually like to open a new space in Lower Price Hill.
 
Jack’s Diner will also enter the neighborhood, as it takes shape within the renovated property that once housed the Urban Appalachian Council. The diner will serve not only as the only restaurant within the neighborhood, but the upstairs will function as a service learning center for high schools and colleges.
 
“It serves the neighborhood, it could be a revenue stream for the nonprofit Community Matters, and it’s a gathering place,” Moroski says. “So now we have the opportunity to provide educational space and have another revenue generator for the school.” 

Do Good:

Support Community Matters through its crowdfunding campaign. 

Support the Lower Price Hill Community School by donating, volunteering or spreading the word.

Contact Mike Moroski if you're interested in volunteering. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Cincinnati's Network of Executive Women leads nation in College Outreach

Mallory Malinoski is a testament to Cincinnati’s success in the Network of Executive Women’s College Outreach program. 
 
NEW Cincinnati, the local chapter for this nonprofit that aims to bring, keep and advance women in the field of consumer products and retail, was recently recognized nationally as “Best of Best” for College Outreach.
 
“Sometimes students aren’t the best at leveraging the networking power that’s available, but the one-on-one support they get from being paired up with a mentor who can provide you with resources to help you get your foot in the door—that’s valuable,” says Malinoski, former College Outreach student and NEW member.
 
Malinoski attended Xavier University and began full-time employment at SC Johnson & Son, Inc. after graduating.
 
She was recently promoted to an account management position, which she says would have never been possible had she not participated in NEW Cincinnati’s College Outreach program.
 
“They invited me to participate in a networking roundtable,” Malinoski says. “And through the College Outreach program, I interviewed and got an internship during the last semester of my senior year, and then they offered me a full-time position. It got my foot in the door.”
 
In the six years of NEW Cincinnati’s existence, more than 275 university students like Malinoski have participated in similar networking opportunities, mentorships and internships. 
 
“A lot of it is word of mouth,” Malnoski says. “A lot of it is behind the scenes—placing students in the right opportunities to get the students in these entry-level positions.” 

Do Good:

• Like NEW Cincinnati on Facebook.

• Learn about NEW benefits, and consider becoming a member.

Get involved with NEW Cincinnati's College Outreach program.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Price Hill Will and XU partner to offer free entrepreneurship workshop

If the thought of starting a business has ever crossed your mind, you’ll have the chance to take that thought one step further at LaunchCincy.
 
LaunchCincy is a free, three-part entrepreneurship workshop offered in partnership by Price Hill Will and Xavier University’s Sedler Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
 
“You can come with a business idea or just the idea to own a business, and we’re going to step back either way and teach people how you observe your environment—whether at a coffee shop or a grocery store—and look at what people are struggling with and then see those as potential business ideas,” says Diana Vakharia, Price Hill Will’s director of economic development. “Any idea is a solution to a problem.”
 
Problem identification is the focus of the first workshop, while other topics in the series include creating a business plan, marketing and fundraising. Each session is led by a combination of business professionals, Xavier faculty and MBA students.
 
“It’s a very unique opportunity to have that sort of expertise guide you in the early stages as you’re developing an idea,” Vakharia says.
 
Price Hill is a prototype for the series, but according to Vakharia, the goal is to take the workshops to other neighborhoods throughout Greater Cincinnati so they, too, can allow community members to grow their own small businesses.
 
“There will hopefully be individuals who, after the program, can move into an incubator space and share rent and work out their business idea in a safe environment, and maybe eventually get a storefront,” Vakharia says. “It’s in a theoretical state right now, but that’s what we’re envisioning.” 

Do Good:

• Register to attend LaunchCincy. The workshop series is free and open to anyone in Greater Cincinnati.

• Connect with Xavier X-Lab on Facebook.

• Connect with Price Hill Will on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Random Snacks of Kindness benefits nonprofit community

If you’re in need of a locally made $10 dollar holiday gift, Random Snacks of Kindness is now available, and 100 percent of the profits will benefit ArtWorks, a nonprofit organization that employs and trains local youth and talent to create art and community impact through three strategic programming areas: public art, art therapy and entrepreneurship.
 
The snack mix is the first of what local chef Frances Kroner hopes will be many productions in her philanthropic line.
 
“My parents are in social work and nursing, and I always felt a little guilty—like I didn’t give back as much as I’d like to in my life or my career,” says Kroner of Feast and Sleepy Bee Café, which is her newest venture, set to open next month in Oakley.
 
Random Snacks of Kindness is what Kroner calls “a sort of merging of a lot of different things in life all at once.”
 
In addition to being a way to give back, the idea for the first project came as a response to her experience in ArtWorks’ SpringBoard business development program.
 
“I got to know them better and how they work with apprentices and thought it was a really cool organization,” Kroner says. “I had seen the murals and heard of them, but I got a glimpse into the back end of things once I went through SpringBoard, and after I finished, I wanted to stay connected.”
 
So Kroner pitched an idea to the organization that would take the apprenticeships the organization already had in place, and expand them from mural-based art to food-based design and entrepreneurial skills.
 
“I didn’t realize how big an impact it was going to have on them, but you can tell already that it was such an eye opener to them to see how much work goes into a product—how much work goes into a business,” Kroner says. “I think they’ll probably retain that knowledge—they’ll remember for a long time.”

Watch a video introducing Random Snacks of Kindness to learn more.

Do Good:

• Support ArtWorks by purchasing the apprentices' Ginger Coconut Snack Mix. 

• If your nonprofit would like to partner with Random Snacks of Kindness to create a mix in the future, contact Frances Kroner.

• Like Random Snacks of Kindness on Facebook, and share the page with your friends.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

soHza connects women, customer becomes agent of change

Empowering women to make positive change is Debbie Lupariello’s goal—not only for herself and her new business venture soHza—but for the women locally and globally who come together to help make the company a success.  
 
Lupariello co-founded soHza and launched the company in April. The concept is to employ global women who create fair trade jewelry, then sell the pieces online with proceeds benefitting local nonprofits serving women in similar capacities.
 
“Some of the jewelry is made from melted down bullet casings or weapons—where HIV women in Ethiopia took something that was horrible in their lives and made it something beautiful,” Lupariello says. “So you pick up a necklace and hold it in your hand, it’s made with weapons, and then a percentage of those sales help victims of domestic violence here locally with Women Helping Women.”
 
According to Lupariello, the United States is almost “like an island,” but women across the country have so much in common, she says, and bridging the gap is important.
 
“We’re not like Europe. People aren’t traveling through,” Lupariello says. “It’s hard for us to even relate to people in the next neighborhood.”
 
But by partnering local women with women across the country, then putting customers at the center of that connection, Lupariello says a bond is created with an incredibly real connection.
 
“The most amazing thing about it is how strong that bond happens,” Lupariello says. “We believe that when women are at the center of change, anything is possible.” 

Do Good:

• Contact soHza or visit the website to sign up for the newsletter. 

• Support women by purchasing a piece of jewelry. 

• Learn about the women involved, and help share their stories. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


TL2 pairs teens with local businesses, teaches economics

Most high school students count down the days until summer vacation, but for those participating in the Economics Center’s summer program—Today’s Learners, Tomorrow’s Leaders—the countdown continues.  

TL2 students spent the first month of their summers back in the classroom as they took a microeconomics course and visited local businesses to earn both high school and college credit. 

Economics can be an abstract concept, says Daniel Barkley, University of Cincinnati adjunct professor and Economics on the Move founder. 

“When I was in undergrad, some of my professors would take us to buildings that were being worked on so you could see how they were being constructed, and I learned a lot that way, so I figured why not do it with economics?” he says.  

Rather than simply reading about economics in a textbook, Barkley says it’s important for his TL2 students to see the business side of things as opposed to the consumer side, which everyone is already familiar with. 

“A lot of companies will open their doors and show you—it doesn’t matter if it’s baseball or you’re making rubber seals—but it’s similar philosophies," he says. "And they’re at the age when it’ll sink in and do well."

Students had the opportunity to experience the inner workings of a variety of places, including Great American Ball Park, Meridian Bioscience, CVG Airport and Sur-Seal—all of which offer different services but operate under similar principles. 

“I realized that a lot of these businesses are alike in so many different ways," says Mozika Maloba, who attends Walnut Hills High School and was a participant in this year’s TL2. "They have so many different things that connect them. At first, I think I neglected to see that, but it’s funny how you can connect CVG to the Reds' stadium or Meridian BioScience, and I think that’s one of the main things I learned. Economics is such a broad field that can connect to every business.” 

And like most cooperative learning opportunities, students have the chance to not only expand their knowledge, but also their social networks. 

“Along with the whole business prospect of it, you are actually getting a group of friends you can stay in contact with for a while, and they all have the same goals and ideas in their heads,” Maloba says. “And after three weeks, there’s so many correlations between you and the 26 others in the same room as you, so it’s really cool how you can befriend people and then later on, after this year, you can talk to them once again.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn about TL2, and if you're interested in the program, apply next year.

Support the Economics Center to help fund programs for students like TL2.

• Like the Economics Center's page on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Fuel the Fire funds social impact projects, betters communities

Young professionals are full of ideas, but turning ideas into fruitful startups takes funding, which is not always easy to come by—especially for recent college graduates.
 
“We have a lot of talent in Cincinnati, and we don’t want that talent to leave this city," says Tangela Edwards, communications chair for FUEL Cincinnati. "We want to keep it here."
 
FUEL Cincinnati, which is a division of Give Back Cincinnati, is a local micro-grant funder that provides philanthropic entrepreneurs with the ways and means to kick-start an idea that will impact our city for the better.
 
The nonprofit funds projects year-round, but its second annual fundraising event, Fuel the Fire, takes place June 27. That event enables five projects to not only have the opportunity to receive funding, but also to gain recognition and exposure so that other interested individuals become aware of their concepts.
 
“Major donors might not want to give initially—they want to see how well you do,” Edwards says. “And sometimes that takes a small amount of money to help a startup get off the ground. Our main focus is to give awareness to five groups—they’ll be able to fundraise outside of this—but this is one thing we’re able to do for them.” 
 
At the event, participants will present their ideas, and the public will vote on its favorite project.
 
This year’s entries span a wide range of concepts, and cover everything from indoor composting, bike sharing, leadership and training for adolescent males, edible landscaping, and even a series of pop-up biergartens in the intersections of five alleyways in Walnut Hills.
 
“Community building, education, environment, diversity—the idea is that if they can fit into any of those categories, we want to hear from them,” Edwards says. “If someone has a great idea that they feel will impact Cincinnati in a positive way but they don’t have the funding or need additional ideas and support, then that’s what we’re here for.” 

Do Good: 

Purchase a ticket to attend Fuel the Fire. 

Support FUEL Cincinnati by donating.

• Spread the word about FUEL, and if you have an idea, apply for funding.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Economics Center teaches biz basics, philanthropy

For the past seven years, elementary students from local schools have been learning about personal finance and the ways a market functions. 

“A lot of adults don’t understand how a market works, and these kids can tell you exactly how a market works,” says Julia Heath, director of the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati. “A lot of people think the government controls prices or the sellers control prices and nobody else controls it, but that’s not true—it’s a market that determines the prices—and these kids know that.”

The students know the principles of a market because each year, they get to participate in the Student Enterprise Program’s Market Madness, where they’re given the opportunity to create and sell products. 

This year’s theme was based on recyclable materials and re-use, so students created things like bookmarks, bracelets, stress balls, notebooks and magnets.

“Some have their products laid out and are walking around with sandwich boards marketing their products, while others are buyers," Heath says. "Then halfway through the round, an air horn sounds, and the sellers then have an opportunity to change their price. So they see a market at work, and they know that if they’re selling things like crazy off their table, then they need to raise their price. If nobody’s coming by, they need to lower their price or increase their marketing.” 

Students also have the opportunity to take a college tour at UC, which Heath says is important because it allows them to envision themselves on a college campus and see if it’s the right fit for their own futures.

Market Madness is an annual event, but throughout the year, StEP’s director, Erin Harris, is busy with the program’s student-run businesses within their own classrooms. 

“They can earn money through their business by good behavior, good attendance and good grades,” Heath says. “And then four times a year, we go to the school with a truck that’s got a bunch of stuff in it, and students then make a decision about whether they want to spend their money, save their money or donate their money.” 

For Heath, it’s wonderful that students are learning economics principles, but the most gratifying aspect of StEP, she says, is students’ willingness to donate rather than save their money for a big purchase like an mp3 player or digital camera at the end of the year.

“Our most economically challenged schools are often our highest donators,” Heath says. “The class suggests the organization that will get their donations, and often it’s something they’ve had direct contact with—like they’ll choose the Alzheimer’s Association because one or two of the kids has had a grandparent that’s been stricken, or they choose Children’s Hospital because they had a classmate who spent a lot of time there, or they’ll choose the March of Dimes because their sibling has been affected. It’s really quite remarkable.”

Do Good: 

Contact Erin Harris if your school could benefit from StEP activities.

Volunteer in a StEP school store or classroom. 

Support the Economics Center by donating. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.
60 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All
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