By Mary Ann Bashaw
© 2008 Raising Arizona Kids
Selling gumballs helped teach 100 Valley kids to appreciate the challenges of running a business. The students, members of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix, teamed up with YOUTHpreneur and Fry’s Food Stores to participate in a pilot program designed to spark the entrepreneurial spirit.
YOUTHpreneur founder Sharon Lechter, C.P.A., (who co-authored Rich Dad, Poor Dad with Robert T. Kiyosaki) developed the program to teach kids business skills that lead to lifelong fiscal responsibility. “Kids need to learn to be self-sufficient so they can take care of themselves, their families and others,” says Lechter, who serves on the President’s Council on Financial Literacy. “We need to give them the self-confidence and get them excited about their place in the business world.”
Looking for a fun way to teach sales and marketing, Lechter decided on gumball machines. As the program sponsor, Fry’s Food Stores agreed to place one machine in each of several Phoenix stores. Money was collected and counted from each machine three times over the six-week class session and students tracked their inventory and sales.
At the Missouri Ave. Boys & Girls Clubs branch in Phoenix, four teams of three kids participated in group lessons and discussions that included profit and loss, assets and liabilities, inventory, financial statements and marketing. They wrote thank-you notes to the Fry’s store managers and reviewed examples of advertising before creating skits with ideas on how to market their gumball machines. Points were assigned for attendance, participation and sales, along with the promise of a prize for the winning team. Proceeds from actual sales went back the Boys & Girls Clubs.
I met the teams one morning at the Fry’s store on Seventh Avenue and Camelback. (I deposited two quarters and pocketed two gumballs before the group arrived.) There were concerns about machine placement near the video counter, where it was lost among posters and movie titles. Money was removed and, using gloved hands, the team added gumballs.
“We all learn best through experiential learning — and it shows kids they can start small and then grow,” Lechter notes.
Kendra Doyel, Fry’s director of public relations, says the project showed “how important it is to be a good business partner and also a good community partner.”
Bryce, 12, of Phoenix (Boys & Girls Clubs policy permits only the use of first names) found it “interesting to learn how to start and run a business. Plus it’s a good thing to stick with something and see it through—that’s what my parents tell me.”