Invest in Me Program turns students into entrepreneurs

It's not very often a group of elementary students are given the opportunity to create and launch a small business.

It’s not very often a group of elementary students are given the opportunity to create and launch a small business.

So when James Bay Community School vice-principal Lindsay Swan heard about the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Victoria Invest in Me program, she decided to get her students on board.

The program links classrooms with BBBS through online material and support that encourages students to build a small business that raises funds for the non-profit organization.

Using an online portal for all the necessary resources and materials, the classrooms can access videos, interactive games and text to spark creativity while teaching financial literacy, organizational and presentation skills, and introducing philanthropy as practice.

Last year, the students in Swan’s Grade 4/5 class put on their thinking caps and decided to host an afternoon and evening talent show. Working in small groups, the students did all the marketing, sold tickets and decided what they wanted for food and beverages. Finding the talent, however, was one of the biggest tasks.

“We were a little bit nervous,” said Swan. “We discovered we had a lot of talent when we opened it up for the (grades) threes, fours and fives.”

The show featured a diverse lineup of lip synching, piano music, a boy riding a unicycle and another solving a Rubik’s Cube. In the end, the students raised around $300, which was matched by a community centre scholarship. The money was given directly back to BBBS to match children on their wait list.

According to Swan, students at the school now get excited about the project every year. Two years ago, students focused on products and services for a James Bay community picnic. One class made duct tape wallets to sell and another offered hair and nail styling services. A dunk tank was also on hand, with students raising approximately $1,000.

“They learn all aspects of starting a business and it’s right from the bottom up. There’s probably 100 little life skills that they are learning in one project,” said Swan. “It’s an opportunity for kids to give back to their community as well. They take that on and they are really invested in how much they are going to make and donate. They get that it goes to help out other people.”

Invest in Me is a partnership between BBBS of Victoria and Startup Skool — a social enterprise that educates students from kindergarten to Grade 12 on ethical entrepreneurship, financial literacy and philanthropy. Startup Skool delivers a four-week curriculum while BBBS provides a $100 micro-loan to each classroom to launch and operate their small business.

BBBS of Victoria provides mentoring programs for children and youth. For more more information visit bbbsvictoria.com.