Richmond Hill High School may one day have its own online retail store where students, teachers and community members can buy anything from clothing to student-produced art, if businesses classes taught at the school keep turning theory into practice.
“It’s an ever-evolving vision,” RHHS business teacher Stacy Bennett said. “We’d like to eventually see a full online retail website … the idea is really to create a real, true, lucrative revenue stream for the high school to support teachers and learning. We really hope this can bring in some real money to be able to support whatever we need.”
The vision was apparently born in Bennett’s business management and administration classes, which required students to come up with a business plan and open a school store in three years, he told members of the Bryan County Board of Education during the group’s December meeting..
The first step in 2012 was a t-shirt printing business. Students essentially went door-to-door, hitting up sports teams and clubs asking for business, Bennett said.
“We went to basketball, went to baseball, soccer, tennis, the band, all these people and said, The kids said, hey, we can make these t-shirts for you, “ he said. “With one heat press and one vinyl cutter and a lot of students going around knocking on doors, that’s kind of how it started.”
And it got bigger. The students made about $500 in one semester and put some of the proceeds back into the business, buying another cutter and expanding its reach through the internet. Students began marketing using social media, and sending out order forms to other schools in South Bryan as well.
Eventually, a spirit store was added to the mix, offering ice cream and fruit juices and game tickets to students. They continued to do the legwork, the homework and the real work, Bennett said, all while being tested and passing end-of-course assessments at a rate of well over 90 percent.
Basically, it works like this. An order is placed, “and we can customize anything they want, say someone wants a kid’s hoodie with the gold Wildcat logo,” Bennett said. “It’s sent to these guys, they get in contact right away to make sure the order is right, then they get the inventory and they make it, and then take it to its respective destination and get payment for it.”
Already, the school store takes payments online using either credit card or debitcard.
Revenues tripled, and the students brought another heat press and cutter to meet growing demand. Assistant Principal Bivens Miller secured a grant which brought the class MacBook Pros and IPad minis to help ramp up its online capabilities, which now include a page on Facebook and order forms available through the school system’s email accounts.
“They do such a good job, work so well together,” he said, noting the students were “constantly moving all the time. I’m glad I really trust them because it can be hard to keep up with them. They do a great job with it.”
Students Brooke Cowart, Brooke Haws, Jenna Murphy and Chaise Parker joined Bennett at the BoE meeting to explain their roles in human resources, marketing, inventory and finances.Parker, the group’s financial manager, told the board the students business had about $5,000 in revenue so far this semester, more than tripling earlier takes. Among the students customers are area churches and Richmond Hill Pharmacy, along with a handful of other businesses.
And the idea keeps growing. Principal Debi McNeal said the idea is to incorporate students in other disciplines as well, including a student who has his own clothing line, and Bennett noted the enterprise will be entirely student driven.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to go to broadcasting classes in the future and let them handle all of our marketing, go to graphic arts, let them do our designs, get them involved too,” Bennett said, noting students can consign pottery, drawings and paintings to the online store “to create a little revenue stream for them and put money back into the programs while spotlighting the talents of those students.”
“The idea,” Bennett said. “is to raise money for classes and promote our kids.”