Neosho’s newest entrepreneurs are younger than anyone might expect – they are 7th and 8th grade students at Neosho Junior High School. Despite their age, the businesses they are operating are very real in an elective class called Wildcat Creations.
This is the first year for the class and Coach John Moore is the teacher who oversees it all.
“They started from the ground up,” Moore said. “They began by taking notes about businesses and how they are operated. Then they pitched ideas in a Shark Tank like style to decide what products to make and sell. Then they voted as a class on what type products they would produce.“
According to Moore, the products suggested in the first vote weren’t what students ended up with.
The class is divided into two separate businesses. One group’s company is Lev Candles and the other is Signature Stones. Each student has a job, ranging from hands on production to financial affairs to marketing.
Their products are available online or directly from students. The class mission statement is found on the website and reads, “We are a student run entrepreneur business. We have created two very different but creative products in our classes. All phases of development, production, marketing and sales are ran by our students. We are a part of Real World Scholars and EdCorps, which have given us the resources and e-commerce site to be a successful student business.“
Real World Scholars provides a grant to make the start-up businesses possible as well as provides the websites where the products are sold.
Eighth grader Evan Haskins is the CEO of Lev Candles and his second in command is Tristan Clanton.
“Lev is the Latin word for light,” Clanton said.
Haskins explained how Lev Candles operates.
“We started from scratch learning about how to start a business, we took notes and came up with ideas,” he said. “We had to apply for the jobs. I made a presentation to the class to become the CEO. We had to learn to make candles.“
Students devised the design and created labels. They procured the jars for the candles. The wax is melted and poured onsite in a work area adjacent to the classroom. Various fragrances are added to the wax and jasmine is the newest. Other fragrances have included peppermint, lavender, snickerdoodle and cinnamon stick. “Our best sellers have been lavender and snickerdoodle (cookie),” Haskins said.
The work crew melts the wax in a double boiler, then pour the scented concoction from a beaker into the prepared jars. They add wicks, which are all the same length.
“We leave the wicks as is,” Haskins explained. Purchasers can cut the wicks to the length they choose but Talon Mitchell, marketing director for Lev Candles, said, “A sticker is attached to each candle lid that explains the recommended wick length although customers can cut it as long or short as they want.“
Their slogan is “cherish our scents for life.” Once ordered, the candles arrive by FedEx or UPS direct to the customer.
The candles retail for $10 each and are made in batches of thirty. Candles are made once, sometimes twice each week. “We do make a profit,” Haskins stated. “We sell the candles for $10. All the money goes back to the class for next year’s classes or is donated to a charity.“
While Lev Candle employees were at work making candles, applying labels, keeping the financial books, and even making a commercial that will air first online and possibly later on area television stations, another group was at work making stepping stones.
Cade Daniel is the CEO for Signature Stones, billed as “a step into another world”. Trenton Wimpey is his assistant CEO for the company. Daniel explained that production of the stepping stones is more involved, in his opinion, than making candles. Each stepping stone is made of concrete using a square mold with an “N” for Neosho in the center.
At present, the N is filled in with black latex after the stones are set but plans call for eventually using paint to colorize the stones. The stepping stones retail for $15 each and according to Daniel, the company makes a $14.25 profit since the cost is just 75 cents each. That cost may go up a little in the near future, however according to Wimpey. “Right now, we’re using Quick Crete,” he said. “But we’re changing to a better quality concrete that will be a higher quality and less grainy.“
Production has been slower than the candles. “We have one ready right now,” Wimpey said.
Daniel also stated that “Mr. Decker, (Neosho Superintendent of Schools) wants to buy multiple stones, to use at his house and maybe around the district.“
Speaking as the CEO, Daniel said his class started with five ideas and voted to narrow them down, then put into groups. “For me,” he said. “I was in the skateboard group (one of several proposed products) but once I became CEO, I got the group to change to stepping stones.“
A summer version of the class will be held during summer school. One difference, however, will be that the summer students will be able to keep what profit they make.
Wildcat Creations will be offered again for the 2018-2019 school year although most of the current students will move on into high school. Next year, it will expand to meet for more days than it has in this launch year.
Mitchell, fulfilling his role of marketing director, is working on getting the candles into at least one local business – Mitchell’s Downtown Drug Store, owned by his dad, Tim Mitchell.
Wildcat Creations offers hands-on, real world business experience in every phase from product ideas and development to selling the finished product. The work areas also include a green room where some students were filming a commercial last week.
For more information about either Wildcat Creations product or to order, visit their website located at
http://shop.meet.ed.org/store/neosho-wildcat-creations or visit follow them on Twitter as NJH Wildcat Creations @wildcatcreation.