NORTH CANTON  Seniors in the Hoover Senior Business Management class at North Canton City Schools have created two companies this year as part of their yearlong curriculum. The companies, United Links and Pawsitively Remembered, have been successfully selling products for the past few months.

The class combines business theory with hands-on learning. Teacher Mike Grady said the seniors in his class are part of a three-year program where the students learn basic business practices. The first year is an introduction to business. Accounting practices are taught in the second year and business management is covered during the third year. Students receive college credits for some of the coursework.

Seniors completing the third year learn in a classroom that is set up like a business office, along with their own conference room. Students also form companies, elect officers, manufacture products and market their product lines.

"This year, we have a company producing and selling engraved dog tags and remembrance windchimes, and a second company producing and selling engraved money clips, key chains, necklaces and wallet inserts," Grady said.

All of the students are involved in the companies in different capacities. There is a sales, marketing and social media team, project managers, production people and a finance department. Each company presents its products to a Shark Tank-like panel of investors. Each company received a loan at a set percent interest rate it has to repay it by the end of the year. The program works with Junior Achievement to obtain the investors.

At the beginning of the school year, students run for CEO. When the CEOs are selected, he or she selects students for each company. The students participate in a personality assessment test and each CEO is given the results so they can select students who are the best fit for a particular job or position with the company.

When the teams are in place, everyone brainstorms for the name of the company and the product or service line. Then, the work begins.

Students in the program are over the top with excitement and believe the class provides them with hands-on and real life learning experiences. Here’s how each company is leaving their mark this year.

United Links

This small business specializes in customizing personal money clips, necklaces, key chains and wallet inserts. The team used social media to survey students, parents and the community to determine the demand for its product lines.

The company uses social media and traditional marketing techniques to promote itself and its products. Sam Russell is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Zach Kile is vice president of sales, Matt Cochenour is head of finance and Tori Vallos is head of marketing. Other members include Noah Miller, Sam Esterle and Ty East.

Engraved money clips are the company’s biggest seller. The group buys the raw product for $3 and sells it engraved for $15. The necklaces cost the company $8 to buy and they sell engraved for $30. To date, the company has sold $1,360 in necklaces, $911 in money clips, $84 in wallet inserts and $70 in key chains.

"Our management team wanted United Links to get involved in the future of the business class and push youth entrepreneurship in the community by starting a fund to donate a percentage of our sales to," said Kile. "This cause also helps us market our company because people feel they are helping others when they purchase one or more of our products."

Kile is a youth entrepreneur when he’s not in class. He has a landscaping and an auto detailing business.

"Our company works well together and we have good chemistry," said Russell. "Throughout the year, we have learned countless lessons from the things that we have experienced. Most the team members intend to go into business and the lessons we’ve learned with this company will help us in the future."

Russell said he wants to major in finance, get an Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and become a business consultant. Kile said he intends to major in business management, earn his MBA and become a serial entrepreneur.

For those interested in buying an engraved necklace, money clip, custom key chain or wallet inserts, visit www.unitedlinksja.com.

Pawsitively Remembered

This small business also used social media to survey its intended customers, twice. The management team was surprised by the results of the first survey which showed the products it was thinking of producing didn’t have a big enough sales margin. 

Like any effective management team, it evaluated the situation and made needed adjustments. Pawsitively Remembered makes engraved dog tags and engraved windchimes in remembrance of a favorite pet.

The company started producing dog tags in October and have sold more than 65 of them. The tags cost the company 70 cents to make and they sell engraved for $6.

Grady said he has had other companies from years past that surveyed for interest in products and found a smaller than expected market. He said the other companies wouldn’t give up the product idea like Pawsitively Remembered. He gave the team credit for giving up their original idea and taking the company in a different direction.

Jonnie Taylor is the CEO and Jake Nidy and Natalie Scheffler are project managers. Other management team members include Jason Morgner, Brock Bender, Brandon Obermiller and Tyler O’Lear.

"We continue to use social media as part of our marketing mix. We hold contests on Facebook and Twitter to draw attention to the company and drive traffic to our website," said proScheffler.

The management team also learned an important lesson about forming partnerships to increase brand awareness and promotion.

"We’ve formed a partnership with a local pet store to hand out our sales information and that has helped us generate sales along with using social media and other traditional marketing techniques," Nidy said.

Taylor said the goal is to succeed in running a small business, working as a team and building opportunities to take it to a new level.

"Everyone on the team puts their blood, sweat and tears into making the company successful," he said. "We wanted to provide a way for those who have lost a pet to mourn them in a more 'Pawsitive' light by personally engraving a windchime for the pet owner. We are also planning to help pets who are without homes by volunteering and collecting and donating pet food."

All of the students involved with Pawsitively Remembered believe the class has helped them prepare for their futures. Scheffler plans to major in business management in college and hopes to manage a medical facility in the future. Nidy said his strengths are in talking with people and giving presentations. He plans to work in the business field but is uncertain of the capacity.

For those interested in buying an engraved dog tag or an engraved remembrance wind chime, visit www.pawsitively-remembered.com.