By Deirdre S. Williams
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
It's not a lemonade stand, but some East Side teenagers developed their own money-making enterprise over the summer.
And the successful initiative has caught the attention of the Buffalo Public Schools.
It's called Caged Inspirations, a T-shirt business owned by five young people who designed the shirts themselves and started selling them locally.
"It gives us something to do. It keeps us off the streets and shows us how to manage our own business," said 14-year-old Shataya Simpson, one of the participants in a business training program for young people called Youth Entrepreneurial Showcase, or YES.
"I'm glad I'm learning [entrepreneurial skills] at a young age," she said.
The YES program began in February in the George K. Arthur Community Center on Genesee Street with students selected from the center's after-school program. The students, who range in age from 12 to 14, have been busy making money, about $1,000 so far.
When the shirt company debuted over the summer at a kiosk in Walden Galleria, they made about $300. The kids recently sold $400 worth of merchandise at Fountain Plaza downtown. They earned another $300 at the Chalkfest sidewalk art festival on Main Street last month and at two separate sales at the community center in July.
YES was developed through a partnership between Canisius College's Students in Free Enterprise program and Akin Hassob Olu Wilson Inc. (AHOWI), an organization that provides outreach for at-risk youth.
The Canisius students - who also operate QuadGear, a campus- based, nonprofit T-shirt company - provided weekly classroom instruction that covered subjects ranging from business plans and branding to intellectual property and ethics. They later brainstormed designs and font styles with the kids.
About 150 shirts, featuring the company's name in a variety stylings, were printed in the first round with assistance from students at QuadGear. Shirts sell for $10 and $15, with a portion of profits going to repay QuadGear for production costs. The owners set aside some of the remaining money for reinvestment in the company and split what is left.
A version of the YES program will be combined into the economics instruction at Lafayette and McKinley high schools, Houghton Academy and Frank A. Sedita Academy.
"The teachers teach economics. They don't teach entrepreneurship. We'll train teachers to teach this part of the program, and the teacher will teach the students in the economics curriculum," said Tracy Cooley, a co-director of AHOWI.
Students at the four schools then will create their own T-shirt designs and sales pitches and present them at a competition to be held at Canisius College in March. The winning team gets to work with a company that participates in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge to design a shirt for the annual 3.5-mile race. And then the company will buy them, Cooley explained.
YES business owners also will work with students of the after-school program at the Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence to design drawstring book bags to sell in the school's store.
"It's good for the kids," Cooley said. "They learn the whole aspect of selling them out of the school store. They're helping the school with fundraising, and they will make some money."
By Deirdre S. Williams