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BY MIA RUPANI | Inspired by their mutual love for the “Harry Potter” series, sixth-grader Qian Qian and her friends agreed that after lending out books to friends, having them returned with the pages dog-eared was a pet peeve.
Determined to make a change, they worked together to create a business they call Book Lovers.
“We all thought that it was bad for the book to crease the pages…so bookmarks are better,” Qian Qian said.
Book Lovers sells waterproof bookmarks with an assortment of designs. The product was first marketed last month at the Tribeca Film Festival family street fair, where the students made $99 in sales.
Middle Schoolers like Qian Qian at P.S./I.S. 276 in Battery Park City have the option to join an afterschool program that allows them the opportunity to create and manage their own business.
The program, named mini-Preneur is in its second year and is for elementary and middle school students. The co-founders, Apurva Dixit and Nik Ruparel, are business partners who are both fathers of children in the school. They came up with the idea after trying to explain to their children what they did for a living.
They decided that the best way to teach their kids about entrepreneurialism was to show them. Dixit said children are able to easily grasp the concept.
This was evident on a recent Friday as students at P.S./I.S. 276 worked together to manage websites and create their own businesses.
Qian Qian and the others plan to continue improving their business and building on what they have already learned.
“We might expand to more products, like other book accessories,” she said. “We’re thinking of creating waterproof book covers too.”
Eight-grader Jonathan is part of a group whose product is called Shell Force. It is a removable, customizable backpack cover that prevents germs from being carried into your home on your bag.
“Learning about all the entrepreneurs out there and how they made a difference is really influential…I wanted to be a part of that,” Jonathan said.
A third group of students swapped Web design ideas for their business called Hearts and Crafts, which sells pre-bundled art kits to kids and adults.
Dylan, a sixth-grader and one of the creators of Hearts and Crafts, describes their product as “an arts and crafts kit that will supply all the materials you need to make three different crafts.”
He said that by purchasing the craft kit, you save money because it is cheaper than trying to gather the materials at different retail stores. It is a good marketing technique that goes to show what the students have learned throughout the course of the mini-Preneur program.
“I think that the fact that we get to develop a business and see how it unfolds is my favorite part of this program,” Dylan said. “It’s a great opportunity to have the resources and people to help us get our business up and running.”
Mini-Preneur is continuing to expand to more schools and offer more opportunities to kids who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs.
“We’re at a number of schools right now, but this summer we are going to run two summer camps,” Dixit said.
The first camp, designed for younger children aged eight to 11, is located at Pine Street School, a private school at 25 Pine St. The ten-day camp will help kids learn the fundamentals of running their own business and will give them the opportunity to work together to create and sell their products.
The second camp, located at 64 W. 3rd St. near New York University, offers a more hands-on approach for ages 11-14.
“More than anything, it’s an opportunity to learn about who you are and what you can accomplish,” Ruparel said.
Dixit and Ruparel agree that the main objective of mini-Preneur is to inspire our youth, who will later become our future.
“The U.S. has taken a backseat to the rest of the world in innovation…if we can plant these seeds now for kids, who knows what they can come up with,” Dixit said. “Whether it’s the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk that comes out of this, it’s part of our mission.”