Students bring business to life at AHS


By Dawn Hatfield

ARCANUM — Roger McEldowney and his students at Arcanum High School have started their own business from the ground up. A-Town Designs sprang from the minds of students who were studying entrepreneurship and saw a way to bring their classroom ideas to life. With a little start-up money from the district, a Cricut® machine, and a lot of innovation and dedication, the students have succeeded in building their own customized tumbler and yard sign business.

McEldowney, teacher of the entrepreneurship course, said of his first-year class, “It’s been great. Our administration has been very supportive and encouraged us to do this and provided us some funding to get started. The kids have just taken it and run with it.”

Taylor Gray (senior), CEO of A-Town Designs, plans to study business at Miami University next year. Gray said, “When I saw this was a new class being added, I thought it would be a great opportunity.” She explained, “At the beginning of the year, we all had to make our own product ideas, and it evolved into making a product that our students and staff could benefit from or just enjoy. Our business now is customized tumblers and yard signs. It’s a cool way to spread spirit throughout the community.”

Gray went on to discuss new business ventures, “Our biggest [potential] project right now is Brumbaugh Construction on 49. They contacted me, and they want 100 tumblers for their 60th anniversary. We’ve never done that many before and are figuring that out.” Understanding that a successful business must turn a profit, she added, “We have made $570 in sales so far, plus Brumbaugh has a [large] budget.”

Landon Haney (senior), A-Town Designs Accountant, was already an entrepreneur when he joined the class. “I own and operate a lawn-care/landscaping business. I started it when I was 14. Today, we do commercial and residential mowing and landscaping, so we’re competing with the big dogs in the county kind of. It’s brought me a bunch of financial experience and [knowledge of] business struggles and advice, in general, that entrepreneurs face in the real world. That’s been great to bring into this class and help teach the other kids what it’s about. I’m learning a lot, myself, that I didn’t know to help me build my business,” said Haney.

When asked what valuable lessons the students in this class are learning, Haney didn’t hesitate in answering, “Handling money, processing orders, and dealing with people — I think school, in general, lacks those concepts of financial aspects and just [real] life. Having the kids learn about that and understand the back end of a business and what it takes to own and operate — it’s more than just a nine to five job; that’s what these kids are learning.”

Haney is very optimistic about the future of the business and the culmination of the class, “Nothing is holding us back. We are facing any adversities and are willing to work over top of them to make sure everything comes together in the end.”

Following graduation, Haney plans to attend Edison State in Greenville for an Ag Science/Ag Business degree and continue to own, operate, and grow his own company as well as work on the family farm.

Caleb Hartman (junior), Production Supervisor, says his main focus is on efficiency. Being a self-starter, he found himself taking the initiative to guide production through a wide-angle lens. “We do three different stickers for one cup, and [without me] we might have 20 of one type and none of the others; I’m the guy who has to figure out all that. I do a lot of the odd jobs that nobody else wants to do also. I didn’t realize how much of a challenge it is to tell everybody what to do, I guess. I just had to step up and say, ‘Ok, you do this; you do this,’ so we could get moving. It’s challenging at times. I think that’s with all business — you have to have somebody in charge.”

McEldowney hopes to continue offering the class in the future and keep business running. “The amount they’ve been able to learn just through this experience, you can’t really get from a textbook or in a regular class setting. This experience has been awesome. We’re excited about building on this. They’ve stepped up. It’s really been fun to watch.”

When asked if future classes are likely to stick with the same business or start over from ground zero, McEldowney replied, “That’s a good question. There’s a possibility we will do something similar, but I think each group might want to put their own touches on it. I think it’s important that you give them the freedom and input to be able to do their own thing, so they have more ownership.”

Jason Stephan, Arcanum High School principal was integral in creation of the business, both financially and as a source of encouragement. “We looked at trying to create electives that are meaningful for our kids that connect to an interest they have or to college/career readiness. This is one that does both for a lot of these kids. This was a great opportunity for them to put [those skills] into practice at school,” said Stephan.

Regarding the negotiations with Brumbaugh, Stephan said, “They’ll be able to get everything they need to fulfill that order. It’s really a great thing for a local business to see what’s going on inside the district and want to help our kids put that into practice. It’s a really great opportunity for our kids, and I’m proud of how well they’ve handled it. They’ve done a tremendous job of taking the lead on this and building it even beyond my expectations, which were high.”

Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.

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