Sandpoint businessman Kendon Perry once had an employee tell him that he believed everyone should own their own business at least once.
Now Perry is helping Liz Gollen’s sixth-grade students at Sagle Elementary School get a taste of business ownership.
Perry visits the classroom once a week as a volunteer teacher for Junior Achievement, an international nonprofit group that sends adults into the classroom to teach children about how to run a business.
Perry, an agent for Farm Bureau Financial Services, teaches the concepts that are fundamental to the mission of Junior Achievement – work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
“It’s important for kids in our society to know how to manage a household as well as how to manage a business,” said Perry. “Free enterprise and entrepreneurship are the backbone of our community.”
The Junior Achievement program includes 9.3 million students in 123 countries. A hands-on curriculum, Junior Achievement brings together the business community, educators and volunteers to teach students the skills necessary to succeed in a global economy.
This fall, Perry has worked with the students laying the groundwork for the opening of their business – Koffee Kidz. The students launched their business on Dec. 15 and will hold their official grand opening in January. The business requires that they arrive early, make coffee, set up their work stations and sell coffee to the parents who are dropping their children off.
In addition to Perry, a representative from local coffee company, Evans Brothers, spoke to the class on how to run a coffee business. Evans Brothers also is the supplier of the coffee for the class project. The kids buy cups, filters, creamers and sugar from Insight Distributing.
“Evans Brothers Coffee and Insight Distributing have been very supportive and helpful,” Perry said.
One recent day, Perry, an enthusiastic parent volunteer, began teaching his weekly class by checking in with each of the many departments in the school-run business – marketing, human resources, purchasing, accounting and production.
“What was on your list from the other day?” he asks the advertising department, emphasizing the need to be prepared because opening day is less than a week away.
When addressing the purchasing department, Perry makes sure the students realize their responsibilities include more than ordering and receiving supplies. “Did you count it to make sure that everything you ordered was received?” asks Perry.
He talks to them about purchasing terms and extending credit, making sure the students understand when the bill is due.
The next time this group comes together will be their first day of sales. Perry wants the kids to think about any potential problems that may arise. Where will they get the water from? Will they rent one hot pot or two?
The kids are concerned about reaching those parents who may not drop their children off in front of the school. It is then Perry introduces the concept of business referrals.
“Your reputation will start to grow,” he tells the students.
After the class is done meeting with Perry, they break off into their separate groups, eager to finalize their projects before opening day.
Perry’s wife, Judy Perry, helps the students in the accounting department. She walks them through the process of using QuickBooks accounting software and explains how to receive an item and generate the payments.
“We do pretty much everything,” Judy Perry said. “Income, expenses and show them about loans. We try to make it as real as possible.”
While most students are being introduced to concepts for the first time, the Perry’s son, Kyle, who is one of the students in the class, said he is already familiar with a lot of what is being taught.
“I already knew a lot of stuff like loans and interest,” he said. “I’ve run a business before. I have my own lawn mowing business.”
All of the students know their tasks and realize the importance each role plays in the bigger picture.
“We had to make the order forms and the checklist and laminate them,” said Matthew Curtiss, who is in the human resources group.
Another student, Sara Gillmer, said the program has taught her how to be a better business person. Her classmate Bailey Potter agrees.
“We have learned to get to know our customers and our products and how to be successful,” said Bailey.
Another student, Caroline Suppiger, eager to help out in any way possible, said she is participating in three of the departments – human resources, production and bookkeeping.
“We’ve learned about businesses and how they are set up,” she said, adding that Perry taught some of the students Junior Achievement in fifth grade but they did not take it as far as operating an actual business. “This year is a lot more hands on.”
Gollen says her students are doing a great job and credits Perry’s enthusiasm with motivating the kids. “Mr. Perry has really taken this project to the next level,” said Gollen.