Some say money changes people, but four Baltimore youths running a snowball stand with their own funds this summer say it's strictly business.
That means no IOUs, no refunds and no free extra squirts of flavor. Even if you're a friend.
In an unorthodox business course based in the real world, Tony Bey, Deonte Austin, and Keith and Korey Minor have set up outside the College Gardens Community Center at 4238 Parkton St. in Southwest Baltimore to sell snowballs, learn about managing money and give back to the center that helped launch them.
"We're learning responsibility and how to work together," said Deonte, who just finished the fifth grade at Beechfield Elementary School. "It was hard at first, but it's getting easier now."
Giving them experience in running a business was the idea of Kerry McCarthy, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
She came to College Gardens two years ago to do field work through the Shriver Peaceworker Program, a two-year curriculum-integrating study and community service project that allows Peace Corps volunteers to use overseas experience to face urban American problems.
"We wanted to create a business curriculum for the kids, but it never seemed to work out," said McCarthy, who spent two years in the Peace Corps working in a Bosnian refugee camp in Southeast Hungary.
When standard business classes were too abstract, McCarthy turned to letting the youths run the two-year-old stand.
Though she's leaving the center - she received her master's degree in social work last month and finishes her fieldwork July 15 - McCarthy says the stand's future is no longer in doubt.
"It was Ms. Kerry's idea at first, and we just got free snowballs for working," said Keith Minor, "but with her leaving, we needed to start running it."
The four boys saved $47 from their allowances so they could purchase supplies. Using the community center's snowball machine, the four will donate a portion of the profits to the center. The profits will aid the center and the experience will fill a gap in the children's education, McCarthy said.
The young entrepreneurs are realizing what it takes to make a profit.
McCarthy said the youths were very professional in their preparation for the stand's opening.
Going cautiously through each step, they "figured out expenses and shopped smart," McCarthy said.
Their business know-how has also changed their attitudes around the snowball stand, which will operate every Tuesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. through the summer.
Keith, Korey, Tony and Deonte ration their napkins and make customers recycle their spoons and straws.
The four are also keeping a journal of their sales that chronicles the number and size of all the snowballs sold, as well as the number of cups used.
Keith Minor, 12, is thinking ahead: "This'll help in the future," he said. "You know, if we want to run our own business some day."