Student-led Businesses Make a Big Impact
Student-led businesses in four US cities recently completed their school year by making donations to charitable causes. These students operate real businesses in their classrooms, part of an initiative from Real World Scholars and Harbor Freight Tools for Schools that includes 22 student businesses across the US called Harbor Freight EdCorps. Following a successful year during which they collectively made nearly $6000, these four student-led businesses each made a charitable donation that was matched dollar for dollar by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, allowing students to double their impact.
Tree Transformation in Colfax, CA is led by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize winner Jonathan Schwartz. Students have access to a functioning wood mill and use repurposed lumber to create their products. They experiment throughout the year and use the business to encourage entrepreneurship within the classroom. Tree Transformation had a great first year, generating nearly $1,700 in sales. In keeping with their use of wood-based products and a love of all things tree-related, students made a donation of $500 to the National Forest Foundation.
Operating in the smallest school district in Pennsylvania, Austin-based Shameless Audacity makes custom wood signs using upcycled materials. They’ve connected with several outside businesses this year including TriCo Connections and Fiverr, helping these students understand the power of networking and mentorship when getting a new business off the ground.
At the end of the year, students wanted to make an impact in their community, so they decided to donate $600 to the nearby Patterson Cancer Center. Their teacher, Katie Sasala, described the experience: “ It’s been great to see them recognize the value of social entrepreneurship by donating to the Cancer Center and all the technical skills required to run our business.”
Golden Oaks Designs
Now in their second year, Pittsburgh-based Golden Oaks Designs is an EdCorp operating in the classrooms of Craig Wetzel and Dennis Sarchet at Keystone Oaks High School. They make a variety of products, including hand-spun wood pens, cornhole boards, and custom items.
When a local family was impacted by the tragic shooting at the nearby Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, Golden Oaks students jumped into action. They began producing “Stronger Than Hate” keychains, selling them on the company website and at local events. The proceeds were donated, and on behalf of the affected family, they were able to make a gift of $600 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Ivy Fresh students wanted to address a local problem with their business, so they reached out to rangers in nearby Cumberland State Park. After learning about issues affecting the local bat population, students decided to focus on bat conservation. Using specs provided by the rangers, students designed and began producing wooden bat boxes, which provide safe spaces for local bats to nest, breed, and hibernate.
The Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee-based business had a great first year, earning more than $1,000 in profits. They also made a $200 donation, unsurprisingly, to Bat Conservation International. “It’s an amazing feeling, learning about an issue that’s becoming more widespread, and knowing that you’re making an impact, even if it’s just in your community,” said Morgan Bell, an Ivy Fresh student this year.