Entrepreneurial experience

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Hilo High School junior Corbin Warmbier, 16, sells scrunchies and pun-tactic towels through his Junior Achievement company, C2A (Chosen to Achieve) Friday at Prince Kuhio Plaza during the Junior Achievement Trade Fair.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald St. Joesph High School freshman Liayla-Romona Pinnow, 14, sells quartz bracelets and succulents through her Junior Achievement company, United Youth, Friday at Prince Kuhio Plaza during the Junior Achievement Trade Fair.

Prince Kuhio Plaza was bustling Friday afternoon as Black Friday shoppers made their way through the mall.

Some, though, stopped, pausing to peruse displays near Old Navy, where four student-ran businesses — selling the likes of jewelry, scrunchies, hand towels and succulents — set up shop as part of the Junior Achievement Trade Fair.

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More than 70 students from Hilo, Waiakea, Keaau, Kamehameha and St. Joseph high schools were organized into four companies, each sponsored by a local business and advised by members of the Hilo business community.

“We’re selling some succulents and some bracelets,” Dayci Oshiro, 16, a junior at Waiakea High School, said of her company, United Youth, which was sponsored by HFS Federal Credit Union.

A variety of green succulents, planted in small, colorful pots were lined up on the table and stacked on a tiered tabletop stand, while the bracelets, each with a quartz gem, were displayed in boxes.

Bracelets, said Oshiro, are always in style and the group decided that succulent plants “were a really cool thing.”

“People thought they were super interesting right now. Plus, they’re super hard to kill, so teenagers like us, we would have an easy time taking care of them.”

The succulents were sourced locally from Novelty Greens, according to Oshiro.

“So they’re non-invasive and we decided it would be a good way to help support a local business,” she said.

The bracelets and their quartz pendants came separately from Amazon, but the group packaged them “and put them together ourselves.”

Oshiro said response Friday was good and that people seemed to like both products equally.

“We started around September. … It’s really fast-paced, but I think we work together really well to create some good products,” she said.

The experience of selling the group’s wares is fulfilling.

“I enjoy being able to have an idea and finally be able to sell it to people and I think it’s good experience for later on if I ever want to become an entrepreneur,” Oshiro said.

Another United Youth member, Liayla-Romona Pinnow, 14, a freshman at St. Joseph High School, shared a similar view.

“I like seeing the progress we made from just an idea and actually making the products and selling it to the public, seeing their happy faces when they get it,” she said. “And a lot of people like to see the different variety, because some people have succulents right now, and they want to see what different ones they have, or if they want to get the same one for a present. I just like seeing people like our products.”

Pinnow, who had spent the morning working at the mall, said that they had seen a good turn out by early afternoon.

“Everyone’s loving the bracelets and succulents,” she said.

Just down the corridor, Corbin Warmbier, 16, a junior from Hilo High School, said the day had also gone pretty well for his company.

Chosen to Achieve, sponsored by HPM Building Supply, was selling handmade scrunchies and printed “pun-tastic” hand towels emblazoned with phrases like “Always be Grate-ful,” accompanied by an image of a cheese grater.

“All the products we have here, we made from scratch and handmade, pretty much,” he said. “So the scrunchies, we hand-sewed them together and silk screened towels, we actually did the printing.”

Chosen to Achieve,was “looking for products that we felt that people would be interested in and that we have available to us for resources,” Warmbier said.

When starting a business, it’s difficult to find the necessary resources, “especially when we don’t have a lot of starting capital to really get anywhere,” he said. But there were people who knew how to sew and who had access to the silk screens and people who were knowledgeable.

“So when we thought about something that would work well within our community, something that people would potentially be interested in, we settled on these things and were able to make it happen by ourselves, pretty much, being able to sew that together, work together for that.”

Brian Brokaw, Hilo operations manager for HPM Building Supply and adviser to Chosen to Achieve, said the trade fair is an opportunity for the students to see what real retail sales are like and what’s required of a business owner.

“It gives them an opportunity to see how much work goes into a company,” he said.

“A lot of them think they want to be entrepreneurs maybe, but they don’t realize how much work there is. You have to do everything, find all the prices of everything. So I think it’s just a good dose of the real world.”

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Additionally, Hanauna Hou, sponsored by Na Leo TV, sold necklaces and bangles, while Maika‘i Productions, sponsored by Big Island Toyota, offered handmade cork coasters and shoelace bracelets.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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