Young Reservoir entrepreneurs show off school spirit

While many high school seniors this time of year are focused on college admissions, spring break or counting the days to graduation, a group of students at Reservoir High School are putting their attention toward something entirely different: their own business.

Students in the advanced marketing class at the Fulton school have spent the year starting and running RHS Custom Wear, selling glow-in-the-dark, eco-friendly wristbands — or “Gator Bands” — to show off school spirit.

“In the advanced marketing class, what better way for them to show off the skills they have learned, other than starting your own business, and go through all the aspects that make a business successful, or even unsuccessful?” said Debra Dear, the students’ teacher. “Whether they make a ton of money is not as important as whether or not they gain the experience.”

The students, in fact, are doing both. Not only have they gained the experience of businessmen and women much older than them, they have sold between 200-300 bracelets at $2 each. Between 600-700 remain to be sold. While they don’t know exactly yet how much money they’ll have made by the end of the year, so far, they’ve made about $400.

“This is a trial and error process, and since we’re so young, we get to figure out what works and what doesn’t work now, having a business now, rather than messing up when we go out into the real world and are doing this,” said Colleen Paraska, president of RHS Custom Wear. “We can take what we learn from this and apply it to our lives after we graduate.”

The business is made up of Paraska, Vice President of Finance Patrick Johnson, Vice President of Production Brent Sabot, Vice President of Human Relations Amanpreet Aujla, Vice President of Public Relations Lovepreet Aujla, Vice President of Marketing Jackie Cooper, and Zack Hess, Alex Eckert, Michael Malcolm, Sue-Lee Miller and Nick Logan, who work in finance, production, human relations, public relations and marketing, respectively.

The students started RHS Custom Wear through the Junior Achievement of Central Maryland’s Company Program. It is the first time the program has been in Howard County schools, Dear said. Through the nonprofit organization that focuses on financial literacy, among other initiatives, the students begin an actual business with stakeholders, customers, products and, as is the case in any new business venture, risks.

“It’s like a capstone project for high school,” Sabot said. “Anything I’ve ever learned in a business, accounting or marketing class, gets applied to this. One of my favorite parts of working with this class is that we do have that risk — if we don’t do it right, we can lose money, so it’s giving us a real experience for business.”

The students each purchased stock in their business, with varying investments of $10-$12.

The students are selling the wristbands at Reservoir sporting events and after-school community events. They’ve even expanded to a local business — Jerry’s Subs and Pizza in Maple Lawn.

Many students said they would be interested in pursuing a business career after graduating college, and that participating in the program gives them valuable experience.

“This gives you an advantage over every other student out there,” Aujla said. “Let’s be honest: how many students trying to get into college or a job can say, ‘I helped start an actual business, I ran my own business’? … Something has to stand out, and this helps us stand out.”

Paraska said that, with an interest in both math and art, she struggled with what field to pick. With the creativity allowed in fields like marketing and business, she opted for that.

“Business is the perfect opportunity where you can be creative and you can be analytical,” she said. “Ultimately, you can be analytical in your creativity.”

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