Hilary Davis is living a teen-ager's dream -- high school class in the mall.
This dream includes no make-believe customers or hypothetical case studies. For Hilary, a 17-year-old Annapolis High senior, and her nine classmates, teacher Debbie Corona uses the energy of the mall to make points about good business practices.
In a classroom behind the catalog department in J. C. Penny at Annapolis Mall, Corona quizzes students on business financing, marketing and strategy planning.
The group is preparing for a miniconference at Anne Arundel Community College in marketing education. Outside the store, thelessons were put into practice at the student's red-and-white "Charming Collectibles" kiosk business and adjoining floor displays.
Last year, the kiosk grossed $25,000 during eight weeks of Christmas sales. This year, wreaths, door swags, Christmas ornaments,dolls and numerous handmade crafts were sold for 50 cents to $42. Figures on this year's take at the kiosk are not yet available.
In the fall, students traveled to Reston, Va., with $6,000 to purchase gifts that would fit into their country crafts theme. In addition, theyaccept consignment items from local senior citizens.
"When you'reout there, you're just one person and you can't gorunning to Mrs. Corona," Hilary said about running the kiosk. "We had to learn everything from handling credit cards to personal checks. You have to know how to single-handedly operate the business."
Every detail of the business has been planned by students and approved by the Student Marketing Enterprises Foundation Inc. The foundation oversees the student operation and is made up of business representatives, including a J. C. Penney manager, the head of the Annapolis Mall, a certified publicaccountant and an attorney.
"When you're out there with those shoppers who are uptight about shopping, it's chaos," said 18-year-old Scott Lloyd, a senior at Annapolis High. "Christmas shopping is supposed to be merry, but it's not."
Students earn two credits for the class. In addition, an A or B in the course may qualify them for college credit at AACC.
In addition to learning the ins and outs of their small business, students are being encouraged to dream. Each student has prepared a detailed business plan for operations they would like to start after college.
Kenn Brown, a 17-year-old senior at Arundel High, has
drafted a plan for a combination fast-food restaurant-video store. Scott is planning a high-tech video arcade in downtown Annapolis.
At the kiosk, students had to be concerned with more than just the bottom line. They learned firsthand, for instance, the importance of location: the kiosk was sandwiched between the line fora photo with Santa Claus, a cookie store, a gift wrapping booth and J. C. Penney's.
"Students are learning that there is a lot more tobusiness than they thought," Corona said. "People think it's easy, but it's not. They learn to do inventory, basic vocabulary used in business, how to get loans and marketing strategies."
In lieu of rent, donations are made to charitable organizations, including the Salvation Army and the United Way. Last year, $4,000 of the money went to student scholarships for former participants.
Even though Christmas shopping is over, that doesn't mean that the students won't be busy. They will be packing soon for another trip to wholesale outlets in Reston to buy supplies for Easter and Mother's Day.