Our kiddos got a taste of the business world at our February GTW Luncheon. Nelson, age 11, and Brook, age 10, set up a table to sell restaurant coupons as a fundraiser for their 5th grade trip to Leelanau Outdoor Center (LOC). We enjoyed watching our two mini-entrepreneurs try their hand at business, and they learned a few things along the way. This is how it went down:
Their booth was simple. White tablecloth, handwritten signs (with only one misspelling). They were going for “authentic 5th grader” and they nailed it. We resisted getting involved with computer-generated graphics or spelling lessons. They were on their own and it was interesting to see them scratch things out, having never even heard of Wite-Out. They were earning their stripes, as they say. We also liked how they had made a million signs for a six-foot table. As they whittled down their inventory to the best, the scratched-out sign went into the trash. Five minutes in and they’d already upped their game.
They were selling coupons and, well, they had no curb appeal. What they needed was something tangible and immediate. Hence, the homemade cookies, one free with each sale. A stroke of genius. Women far and wide came to see what the bake sale was all about. Sure, half of them bailed when they realized the cookies weren’t for sale, but the kids were drawing a crowd. (Next lesson: Women beget women.)
And they soon learned that a plate of cookies has a power beyond any other marketing tool known to man. The fact that the plate of cookies was next to two adorable children raising money was… cut-throat strategy. Well done, little ones.
The kids didn’t know it, but we had threatened the women openly from the mic at the start of the luncheon: No one was leaving the building until the last of the 26 coupons was sold. It was a ransom situation, to be sure. But the women took it in stride. (For those of you who were at your first-ever GTWoman event, we apologize for the whole hostage thing.)
However, the gals didn’t just buy the $10 coupons, they made the kids work for it. This wasn’t a hand over the money, no questions asked, arrangement. The gals were, like us, quite interested in teaching them all about business. They started firing off questions:
What’s the money for? “LOC.”
Who gets it? “Westwoods.”
Who goes on the trip? “Westwoods.”
The kids had only two answers but they effectively answered every single question thrown at them. They were not to be deterred, and they repeated themselves 26 times without worry. The women put them through the wringer, teaching them more about public speaking (and short answers) than business school could in four years.
We found ourselves hanging out by their table, waiting to see which of our friends would break them and show them the cruel, cruel world of business.
That’s when one gal came up to buy coupons (get a cookie) and found she only had $9 in her purse. A dollar short! Would she haggle the kids for a discount? Would she start the “check was in the mail” runaround? Would she walk away and dash their hopes?
None of the above.
She offered them a $5 donation to LOC, they offered her a cookie, and she left with a smile on her face and a pat on the back for each of them.
Oh dear, we thought, had she ruined them? Would they expect nice people like this the rest of their lives now?
But we didn’t worry long. We realized that, while we’ve had some bad experiences over the years, most of the women we know are the $5 kind.
Last lesson, kiddos: Always do business with good women, kind women… and women who love cookies.