Josh LeBlanc says that he has been amazed with the efforts and the results produced by the students in the Entrepreneurship 30 class at the Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS).
Entrepreneurship 30 gives students a chance to collaboratively own a business. They elect a leadership team, select and sell a product, and deliver that product to their customers.
Speaking at an information and awards night at the school on January 28, LeBlanc, who is the teacher for Entrepreneurship 30, along with some of the students, explained the process associated with building their business, and how they used their skills to generate some pretty substantial profits.
The Entrepreneurship 30 class in Period 1 operated a business named Truffle Shuffle, while the Period 5 class ran First Class Baking. Both were food-related businesses that delivered goodies to customers just before Christmas.
Every student in the classes invested $20 into their businesses. Each business also secured a loan of $500 that was paid back in the first month. All students enjoyed a return of at least $300; some students who sold additional products made as much as $400.
The average return for other programs in the province, according to LeBlanc, is about $25 to $40 per student.
Many students take Entrepreneurship 30 thinking it'll be a relatively easy high grade, LeBlanc said. The first couple months were dedicated to bookwork. Once November arrived, the schedule became more demanding.
Truffle Shuffle and First Class Baking had to elect their own president, as well as vice-presidents of human resources, finance, production, information-technology, and sales and marketing.
"Those VPs, when they were elected, didn't realize how much extra work it meant to be a VP, or to be in charge," said LeBlanc.
The officers for each business were responsible with selecting a vision for their business, establishing goals, setting company norms and tracking outcomes.
They were given a chance to explain their businesses and results during the January 28 information night.
LeBlanc said the students worked tirelessly to sell, market and prepare their foods. The Truffle Shuffle team members sold about 3,400 orders, with seven truffles in each box, which equates to nearly 24,000 truffles. They worked until 3 a.m. one morning to finish filling the orders.
First Class Baking students came to school on Sundays, and worked until 1 a.m. one night, so that they could complete their job. They sold about 3,200 jars of products, with 531 pies, 1,722 cheesecakes and 985 orders of cookies.
"What surprised me the most was how, in the end, all of these kids pulled together to get the job done," said LeBlanc.
First Class Baking had net sales of $14,858 from their pies, cheesecakes and cookies, and a net income of $5,913.
Truffle Shuffle posted total revenues of $17,155.77, and a net income of $7,847.72.
The average net return for First Class Baking was a little higher than Truffle Shuffle, but Truffle Shuffle had 10 more students.
Since both classes opted to run food businesses that offer products popular during the holiday season, LeBlanc said it resulted in a lot of extra work.
"This class can be easy, but it totally depends on which product they choose that they're going to sell to the public," said LeBlanc.
The food industry is a very competitive market, especially at Christmas time, he said.
"The market is flooded with all of the different products that there are around," said LeBlanc. "To go around and to do what they did, by going to the different businesses … and making the connections … and selling the product, it's not an easy thing to do, especially during the Christmas season."
The products proved to be excellent, LeBlanc said. He received only a few complaints for each business. The majority of the customers were very happy.
Each business also showed tremendous creativity, LeBlanc said, through the logos that they designed and the way in which they embraced social media to market their products.
Both companies also emphasized corporate giving. Truffle Shuffle donated $1,000 to United Way Estevan, while First Class Baking contributed $1,000 to the Hearthstone Community Campaign for Estevan's new nursing home.
"As someone who has lived in this community, and has grown up in this community, I've always seen the importance of social responsibility when it comes to businesses," said LeBlanc. "I think it's something that the kids need to realize, that with the activities they're involved in, how much business helps those activities grow, and how a business can help create not only personal wealth but community wealth."
Businesses can provide a boost to the events, the tourism and the recreational opportunities in a community, he said.
LeBlanc was also pleased with how the students conducted themselves. He brought local business leaders to the Entrepreneurship 30 class for a get-together similar to CBC's "Dragon's Den." Students explained their business plan and products, and answered questions from the business leaders.
The students also pitched their products to people in the community.
Those who excelled in sales and production, or showed dedication, were recognized with awards.
The Junior Achievement Program's Saskatchewan chapter is a partner with Entrepreneurship 30 and other similar classes in Saskatchewan. Katherine Gagne with Junior Achievement applauded the local students for their efforts.
"Each of the students bought a share in their company, and I tell them that when they buy a share, they're really saying 'I will share in the profits, but I'm also sharing in the risks,'" said Gagner. "And that's substantial. Not all companies move to a place of profit."
LeBlanc noted that the Junior Achievement Program offers awards for the youth entrepreneurship projects, and he expects that due to the success and effort from all of the students, that each student will be nominated for at least one award. The Junior Achievement Awards will be handed out in June, and not only do the awards provide a chance for recognition, it allows students to make connections that can yield scholarships, employment opportunities and summer internships.