Door-to-door sales of cookie dough and wrapping paper are a tough way to raise money. So the members of a Rock Hill Student Ideas Group dreamed up a better way.
The group of about two dozen students from Rock Hill’s three high schools, based at the Applied Technology Center, have spent three years laying the groundwork. Now they’re ready to launch a project they hope could raise thousands for Rock Hill schools.
The student group, which has been learning about e-commerce, researching products and marketing their ideas, has created two websites. They plan to use the sites to sell clothing and unique products to benefit schools in the Rock Hill district.
“It hit me like a rock,” said retired York County businessman Charles Johnson, now a volunteer adult leader of the Applied Technology Center group. “This is the way to do fundraising.”
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Customers can order and pay for their items online, using credit cards, so students don’t have to handle the money, he said. And the items are shipped directly to the customer, so students don’t have to handle the delivery.
Eighty percent of the profit from each purchase will go back to Rock Hill schools, he said, and buyers can choose one or more schools they want the purchase to benefit.
The remaining 20 percent of the profit goes to pay student interns who are leading the project and other expenses, including a Rock Hill packing company that is handling orders.
Students say the project has been an eye-opening experience in what it’s really like to run a small business.
“Now I have the tools to start my own business, and I think it’s something I would like to look into,” said South Pointe High senior Chase Starnes, 17.
Spencer Simon, 16, a Rock Hill High student, got involved in the project because of his interest in using social media. But he’s learned so much about marketing, distribution and other facets of a business that now he’d like to be an entrepreneur.
Northwestern High sophomore Helena Hubbard, 15, learned about teamwork and communication. “I’ve got an idea how to work on a project in the workplace,” she said.
Johnson, who spent 25 years with Proctor and Gamble as a sales and marketing manager, said the idea germinated several years ago, when he began speaking to Applied Technology Center marketing classes.
Students’ ideas drove the project, he said.
The students wanted to create a website to raise money for schools through sales, and they did research and surveys on what type of products they should sell.
They also prepared plans to market their sites.
Johnson said students ended up with two websites. One, www.baystgarment.com, will focus on ongoing sales of T-shirts and other clothing designed by students, with the aim of providing a steady stream of revenue.
The second site, www.studentig.org, will have fundraisers for a scheduled period, with time in between for students to reorganize. It sells unique, needed products that are both safe and environmentally friendly, a criteria the students set.
“The students have really great ideas,” said Jerry Shuler, another adult volunteer with the group. “They just need some direction.”
Johnson said students did research and conducted surveys to decide which of hundreds of items should be sold on the website. They narrowed it down to 15.
Some of the products include a $26.99 shoe and boot scraper, a $19.95 wall-mounted grocery bag dispenser, a $29.95 car dog harness and a $19.95 garden tool organizer.
Buyers can also purchase gift bundles and a $16.95 food package for homeless or needy students in Rock Hill schools. The group doesn’t get a profit from the food package, Johnson said.
Starnes said part of the goal of the project is to find ways to give back to the community. The group hopes the money it raises can be used to supplement the financial support for school organizations and parent-teacher groups.
Students have recently begun marketing the idea with 200 signs set up across Rock Hill, and they plan to distribute 500 posters in restaurants and retail stores. They are also doing promotions with school principals, Parent-Teacher Organization leaders and teachers.
Shuler said the group doesn’t yet know how much money it might generate, but there’s lots of potential. If the group sells 2,000 T-shirts – about one to each student at either Rock Hill or Northwestern high schools – that would generate around $16,000 to donate to Rock Hill schools, he said.
Johnson said the idea has potential to benefit other school districts and other nonprofit groups, such as churches. As one student, Kennedy Reed said, it could “make an impact on the world.”
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077
A Rock Hill Student Ideas Group has launched two websites to sell clothing and other items, with profits to benefit Rock Hill schools. The sites are:
▪ www.baystgarment.com: sells T-shirts and other clothing items designed by Rock Hill students
▪ www.studentig.org: sells items that are environmentally friendly or help with safety; buyers can also purchase a $16.95 food pack for a needy Rock Hill student