Charming Collectibles, a student-run business, will sell everything from cow earrings and tote bags to picture frames to pig mugs next month when its kiosk opens again outside the JC Penney store in Annapolis Mall.
"Cow and pig stuff is hot," explained Kathy Andersen-Smith, who teaches Marketing at the Mall, an elective for the county's high school seniors. A stand selling cow place mats did a brisk business during the Christmas season.
The students, most of them from Annapolis, South River, Arundel, Broadneck and Severna Park High schools, meet in a training room at JC Penney to study entrepreneurship and marketing management.
They put their lessons into practice at the kiosk, which is open twice a year for eight or nine weeks during regular mall hours. The stand is to open April 1.
Mrs. Andersen-Smith and Glenn Brainer, another marketing teacher, modeled the 7-year-old program after one in Virginia.
The mall does not charge the students rent. Instead, it allows them to donate a percentage of their business' gross sales to a charity of their choice.
This year, the students donated $2,250 to the Caring Program for Children, which provides health care coverage to low-income youngsters.
Part of the business' profits also go toward student scholarships, which have ranged from $3,000 to $5,000. The rest of the earnings are plowed back into a fund for future inventory or pay the $4.25 an hour salary each student earns.
Students usually work a four-hour shift.
The business has a line of credit with its suppliers. The students select their own merchandise, sometimes traveling to gift shows to pick out new lines.
There are 22 students in the program. Adrienne Gray, an Annapolis High senior said she learned everything from fighting shyness to how to handle credit cards while working in the business from October to December last year.
The Student Marketing Enterprise Foundation, composed of business representatives, oversees the program.
"I think it's a positive step for us to be involved with the students to give them a taste of the retailing business," said John Zimmerman, store manager at JC Penney.
The entrepreneurship and marketing management class encourages students to dream about one day running their own business. Students study entrepreneurship the first semester, creating business, marketing, financial and management plans. They also study the competition, forms of business ownership, how to choose business locations.
In the second semester, they study the fundamental principles and concepts of marketing management. Local entrepreneurs and business managers serve as guest speakers.
Mrs. Andersen-Smith said the program, which will add two north county high schools next school year, has drawn interest from as far away as Oregon.
Whether the students later decide to go to college, or to work first, she said, "I think what they learn transfers to either place."