Start of Journey - First Business Exposure as Trade Show in Middle School
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
As Richard Branson once said; “A business starts small”, the exact story of my business journey, how it started, and how I came to be!
My story started in Mississauga, Canada, when I decided to apply for the IBT; International Business Technology program in 5th grade for the following year of middle school. This program gives students a chance to face challenges and hardships of the real business world. It definitely improved my creativity skills and genuinely pushes a student to work their best, as their goal is to sell their product. I give a lot of credit to this program as it allowed me to notice my strengths and weaknesses. And this was really the first time when I worked very hard and saw my potential; and got the best experience of what a business reality would be like! ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I decided to apply to the middle school with this program, and fortunately enough, the IBT program accepted me out of about 800 applicants. I am so glad for this program, and I feel more confident than ever in achieving my business goals because of it.
Tradeshow In the IBT program, there is a huge event called Tradeshow that requires Grade 8 students to create a product and sell the merchandise at Tradeshow. As young entrepreneurs of the 8th grade, we were to handle every aspect of the business process— from developing business plans and marketing strategies to production and sales. ~ ~ ~ ~ When I was first introduced to the concept of Tradeshow, I was pretty excited for the journey and the thought of creating a product and selling it sounded fun to 13 year old me; especially the money part(haha). But little did I know, this event was about to change my opinion on Business and -oh how it did! Tradeshow consisted of us young entrepreneurs of 8th grade to create a product and advertise it in the best way possible. It was like a competition with myself in every decision I made; every idea seemed so good yet the thought of it not being successful would frighten me quite a bit. But up until the first month of Tradeshow, I didn’t realize that this journey wasn’t about the product or the business’s name, it was about the thinking, the creativity, the decisions and how I should make them. It was about doing better, and getting up after every fall, and standing up taller than before. It was for the win; like a competition with my lazy side vs. the part of me that had great potential. Tradeshow was all about what potential students can have; what potential I can have.
Why did I choose Business? Now like any other confused kid, I was imaging all the fun jobs at the age of 10. I switched up between a teacher to a doctor a lot, not realizing there were other jobs in the world! Funnily, I actually thought about owning a store and selling things to people; becoming a businesswoman. It was one of those moments where I saw something on tv and instantly got inspired. However, at 10 years old, I can’t say that I actually liked the idea of running a shop, because the money was the main attraction. This dream was a short phase, but after Tradeshow, owning a business didn’t seem like a dream anymore, I wanted it to become a reality- my reality. Tradeshow crystallized that image of me as a businesswoman, it locked my thoughts into place and I knew exactly ~who I was meant to be~.
TIMELINE of `Tradeshow`
The First decision The first decision of Tradeshow was the choice of collaboration. I was always an independent person, and especially for this huge project, I wanted to see my growth and make every decision by myself. I wanted to see my improvement, and working alone gave me that opportunity.
Process of the Products Now, the most important decision of this entire journey was the product. I was very hesitant here; choosing the right product was important, and the idea of messing this choice up would have resulted in my whole project going downhill. Luckily, the program didn’t require a direct product choice, we had to keep 3 choices in mind, then we entered the judges room. ~ ~ ~ ~ I have had no experience in business prior to this, and I had no idea what product to create, whether the customers would like it, would it even sell??? It was really confusing, but I took the advice of other Tradeshow Groups, and fortunately enough, my best friend who was a senior in this program who had successfully completed this project before. So her advice helped me quite a lot. ADD GRADE 7 INPUT
I also got input from teachers to know what products were difficult but sold pretty well, and what’s the safest option that had great sales. In the end, I decided to follow up with both. ~ ~ ~ ~ My 3 products ranged from a food item, which sold the most in every Tradeshow but took the most amount of work; to jewellery, that was easily sold as well, despite being a very safe option. But the third product that I went with was nothing but creativity, a product that I have never seen before: an iphone beach chair stand. ~ ~ ~ ~ The product struck my mind like lightning, it was such an odd product but in the back of my mind, I believed it would work out. Gladly, the judges believed it too!
THE JUDGES Quite literally the scariest part of this project. The process of choosing the right product is something no 8th grader has experience in, but getting your teachers to decide the product’s worth puts lots of things into perspective. I was pretty excited to see which of my products would work the best, but I was more nervous at the thought of the judges disapproving everything. ~ ~ ~ ~ The decision wasn’t solely based on the looks of the product, but also the way I marketed it. The judges stage consisted of the business owner ~me~ to persuade the judges why I think the product would work. They would then bounce questions off to ensure I believed in my product, which I most definitely did!
Afterall, I did this journey alone. Believing in my decisions was the only thing that gave me hope and kept me going.
Company’s name, slogan and logo Once I finalized my product, I had to choose a business name, with a logo and a slogan. Working alone made this process a bit hard, since I had no one to discuss these ideas with, but luckily, I had support from many of the groups in my class who reached out with great suggestions. ~ ~ ~ ~ Before finalizing any names, I first set a theme for my business, which made it easier for me to choose my company’s style. Since I was going for an iphone beach chair, I believed the beach theme would stand out the best. ~ ~ ~ ~ After setting the theme, I finally chose the top company name, slogan and logo that went along perfectly with my product!
Investing into the Business Owning a business involves much more than just the product and your company’s aesthetics. It is mostly directed towards your hard work, and the investment you put into your business. ~ ~ ~ ~ I believed in my product A LOT, and genuinely loved the idea of a beach chair stand, so much that I invested about $160 into creating the products. The money aspect always plays a huge role in any business, and it’s important to spend it wisely ~ ~ ~ ~ When choosing the right amount of money to make these iphone beach chairs, I needed to have an idea of how many would sell. Keeping in mind that there were about 500 people who attended Tradeshow, from students to families etc. I had a goal of selling at least 160 chairs. This goal put the money investment into perspective, and I concluded that a $160 would be enough for me to make a good revenue, by spending a $1 on each of my products and selling it for a few dollars more. Fun fact: I spent about a month and a half working on these products, and my hard work paid off at the end!
Shep Hyken once said:“All of your customers are partners in your mission”. And how could I convince potential customers to join my mission, if they don’t even know what it is? That’s where business becomes more than business, it's now become an advertising agency. ~ ~ ~ ~
My customers was students and families and parents teachers plus friends Spreading your business online everywhere is the only way customers will reach out, and how their interest builds. One customer leads to another, and my goal was to get as many as 160 customers. With a goal that big, I decided to spread my business awareness in places other than social media. In fact my marketing techniques all came from my Dad, as he helped me the most throughout my Tradeshow journey. He gave me ideas on how to create posters to stick around the school wall, how my twitter account should look to make my business appealing etc. NO DAD CREDIT
Orders Fortunately, many people who I knew reached out, and I gained about 50 customers in the first few days of advertising. These customers had the chance to finalize their purchase, and had a chance to do customizations. ~ ~ ~ ~ The school held pre-bookings for anyone looking to customize a product they want for sure. Those customers who reached out came to this event, and I had 50 orders that I was so excited about! I then spent the next few weeks preparing the orders and contacted those customers for a pick up of the product on the day of Tradeshow. Everything in my business was going so well, and I was looking high at the sky seeing my dreams come true!
What does customization mean
The Business Stall I was very hyped up about my products, and I was even more excited to create my Company’s look, as in: The Stall. ~ ~ ~ ~ I had a variety of choices, and with a beach theme, my creativity rocketed! I thought about creating a beach hut, along with the hay and umbrellas on top, and buying just about anything that screamed BEACH! I spent about $120 on creating my hut, which for Tradeshow was A LOT! I had high expectations for my stall, and spending this much money on it, was the only way to make my company stand out even more. I was very confident and excited in my decision to build a beach hut as my stall, but the beach hut wasn't confident in me….. ~ ~ ~ ~ After buying a bunch of material from wooden poles, to hay and cardboard, I tried putting the pieces together. I spent hours on making the beach hut, and nothing was working out! I decided to try multiple ways, and after I got about 3 teachers to help me, the hut was finally together!
Support:) Trade Show was about 2 weeks from this point of the journey, and about every negative thought possible hit my brain. The day was so soon that I lost almost all of my belief. I’m glad I had my friends and family to carry me along the way, and I always got back up!
The day of: TRADESHOW The day of Tradeshow; Took about 8 months for me to experience one of the greatest days of my life! ~ ~ ~ ~ Tradeshow was crowded the first moments of entering the school. Students were running back and forth to set up their stall and making sure everything was in place. It was chaos! Thankfully, my stall was mostly set up, and I had to just have my products and beach music to finish up the stall. ~ ~ ~ ~ I remember the teacher telling us how much time we had left till Tradeshow officially opened and I remember smiling so much but literally trembling inside. However, I was prepared, and I practiced my sales pitch about 50 times before customers showed up. ~ ~ ~ ~ I was fortunate enough to be the very first company that customers would see as soon as they entered the school. I choose that spot, and perhaps that spot deserves a lot of credit. ~ ~ ~ ~ As soon as the doors opened, I remember families were huddling my stall, and much positive feedback from the customers who visited the stall.. I managed to sell about 70 chairs in the first 2 and ½ hours, not realizing that I already surpassed the half point of my goal. ~ ~ ~ ~ I remember talking to different people, and meeting my friends' families and it was pretty interesting to see a business owner’s point of view of the customers. In fact, my mom reached out to her colleagues to join this event, and luckily her friends brought about 10 chairs! I was beyond grateful!! ~ ~ ~ ~ Slowly after 2 hours of Tradeshow passing by, customers started to decrease, and my sale rate went down, but I managed to sell about 20 more chairs! ~ ~ ~ ~ By the end of this long night, I sold about 142 iphone beach chair stands, resulting in about $430 in revenue and with my overall budget and spendings, I made about $150 in sales:) Tradeshow was a huge success for me and that day was memorable!
Final Thoughts Tradeshow was one of the best learning experiences for me, I managed to learn so much about business, independency, hardships and how to face them etc in the matter of just 8 months. Each step of the journey, every decision, every choice made me into what I am today. It taught me how important hard work is, and showed me my potential; potential I never thought I had! ~ ~ ~ ~ I remember before starting Tradeshow, my mind was filled with confusion and only one thought lingered in my mind: how am I even going to do this? I guess I knew exactly how to do this, and I did right! I got over hurdles, faced failures, doubted in my products a lot, but I never once gave up. I’m glad I believed in myself, and Tradeshow taught me to believe. “A business starts small” and I can’t wait to see how far my business can go:)
Canada's youngest entrepreneurs get a head start at school | CBC News
Young entrepreneurs put wares to the test at trade show (mississauga.com)