Student entrepreneurs promote their businesses at Seven Chiefs Sportsplex

Saturday’s annual business fair was the culmination of North Point Schools’ financial literacy program, which provides the students hands-on education in everything from budgets to the stock exchange.

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Maddox Quek is a savvy businessman. He understands the importance of having a prime location to attract customers and the concept of providing a higher quality product than his competition, at a better price point.

He’s also just 10 years old.

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Quek, a fourth-grade student at North Point Schools, was one of roughly 150 budding entrepreneurs selling their wares and promoting their business ideas at the private school’s Young Entrepreneurs Annual Business Fair on Saturday.

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The expo, held at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex just west of Calgary city limits, featured a wide range of student-created products or services on offer, ranging from homemade baked goods to dog chew toys and salsa, among other things.

Quek, who said he showed up early to scope out a booth near the entrance of the fair, was selling a variety of homemade wooden trays that he had constructed with his dad.

“I like building stuff with wood and so does my dad, so he decided to help me and we settled on this,” said Quek, adding each tray would take approximately 40 minutes to make.

Saturday’s annual business fair was the culmination of North Point Schools’ financial literacy program, which provides the students hands-on education in everything from budgets to the stock exchange.

Biz fair in-copy
North Point Schools is looking to put their students at the head of the class when it comes to financial literacy. Photo by SCOTT STRASSER /Postmedia

Brent Duvost, head of North Point Schools, said the student business fair has been a popular annual project since the school opened in 2015 — apart from 2020 and 2021, when it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit flowing throughout the school, so through our financial education program … students are engaged in weekly financial literacy lessons,” he explained, adding the school’s curriculum is centred on experiential learning.

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The program also delves into things like financing and investing, and includes an annual business-pitch competition (modelled on the TV shows Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den) and a stock market simulation competition.

“We take the traditional learning model — math, social studies, language arts, science — and try to find ways to make it an engaging process of experiencing the world around you,” Duvost said.

Bruce Groberman, the school’s director of financial education, said the program is a mandatory part of North Point Schools’ curriculum, right from kindergarten to Grade 12. The youngest students learn financial basics, such as what a business is and how it operates.

Over time, Groberman said the program gets more comprehensive, to the point where students start learning about more detailed business concepts, such as profit margins and marketing. Before the annual fair is held, the students prepare a fulsome business concept, outlining what message they want their business to convey, what product or service they intend to sell, what their cost-per-product was and what their sale price will be.

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Groberman said there is a heavy emphasis in the course on understanding what “profit” is, adding that the students even get to keep any of the proceeds their sales generate at the business fair.

“Even the littlest kids understand what a profit is,” he said. “If they’re making something, they have to sell it for more than what it cost them to make it.

“We even have lessons on how to be a good salesperson so they can know what attracts people to their booth and perhaps how to get them to purchase the merchandise they have.”

One North Point student who was clearly paying attention in class this year was Gavin Mark Sheppard. The 16-year-old Grade 11 student was selling a range of tuques he’d made in his basement, called Baked Beanies.

He said the tuques are made out of polar fleece, and take about 20 minutes each to make. His table featured a variety of colours and even some custom designs.

“It’s a fabric that is nice and stretchy,” he said, adding the material is warm and a little bit more wind-proof than a traditional tuque.

He said he decided the beanies would be a good business concept after he realized they fit nicely under his ski helmet. When his friends asked if he could make one for them as well, he realized there was a demand for the product.

While he doesn’t intend to pursue a career in business, Mark Sheppard said his homemade tuques provide him a viable “side hustle.”

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