Snacks offer youths taste for business Entrepreneurs: Morgan State program turns summer stands into educational experience.

August 23, 1996|By Kaana Smith | Kaana Smith,SUN STAFF

Battling heat and insects, Jennifer Cherry, 14, and three business partners have spent part of the summer in search of any hungry or thirsty resident who might wander past their snack stand in Forest Park.

The participants in the Youth Entrepreneurship Program run by Morgan State University are among a few dozen youngsters, ages 7 to 14, who were recruited from the Forest Park and Cherry Hill neighborhoods and the Port Street community in East Baltimore. The goal of the program is to supply them with knowledge necessary to run a successful business.

"I learned that it's hard work and it takes a lot of patience and motivation," said Jennifer, sitting under the hot sun wearing sunglasses. She helps run the Sweet Shop outside Adams Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Forest Park. On the table in front of her were bottles of juice and bags of chips; the bear-claw pastries and cookies were long gone.

"Our young people need to know that there is another option out there -- that you don't always have to go to work for somebody," said Pryde Davis, program coordinator and former business law professor at Morgan State. "We want them to realize that they do have a chance to open their own businesses when they grow up."

The entrepreneurship program, funded by a three-year, $400,000 grant by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, is run by Davis from the Small Business Development Institute, which is part of Morgan's School of Business and Management.

Grant money also is being used for a business development program for adults in these and other low-income communities.

In mid-June, program organizers went to neighborhoods gathering interested youngsters for a two-week workshop on the rudiments of accounting, bookkeeping and sharing responsibility to prepare them for the opening day of business in July.

They also had the chance to decide a business name and select the products to be sold.

While the Sweet Shop catered to those with a sweet tooth, the two other groups -- one by the Northwood annex of Morgan State's campus on Hillen Road and the other across the street from Cherry Hill Recreational Center -- decided to put hot dogs on their menus.

Because the grant pays for instruction and organizing, the little more than $100 needed to set up shop was provided by donations from area churches and community organizations. Davis said the businesses should break even, generating between $100 to $200 in sales.

When businesses close shop at the end of this month, each group will pool the profits and vote to spend the earnings on an activity, such as going to an amusement park, keeping leftover money.

But program coordinators say experience rather than profit is the focus of the business venture.

"I think they're grasping the notion of owning a business and they're realizing that it's not all about fun and games," said Natalie Gibson, 22, a psychology graduate from Morgan State. Gibson and two Morgan students are paid to supervise each shop.

At the Cherry Hill Kids' Hot Dog Stand, Gibson and the stand owners giggle and talk among themselves by a table covered with lollipops, chocolate candy and a cooler of iced tea. When customers approach, three of the owners, ages 8 and 9, stop the gossip to attend to business.

Moving at a brisk pace, the three girls bump into one another, each competing for the chance to quench the thirst of their customer and fill a foam cup with iced tea. After making change, they bid farewell and run into the arms of Gibson and playfully jump up and down, impressed at a job done well.

Program organizers hope to see the same type of enthusiasm from the 10 Cherry Hill residents recruited for the 16-week, adult business workshop that recently ended.

The grant program will offer future workshops in low-income communities and organizers will set up business centers in each community, staffed by Morgan State business students helping entrepreneurs devise business plans and offering advice until the grant ends.

Davis says he hopes to see the young entrepreneurs maintain their level of enthusiasm and pursue their efforts under the guidance of successful business owners in their communities.

One young worker was so enthusiastic that she served as her own recruiter.

Shannon Boyd, a Cherry Hill resident, was having a rather boring summer, she said, until she ran across the Cherry Hill Kids' Hot Dog Stand. Volunteering to replace others chased away by the hot sun and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift, Boyd has spent her summer taking inventory and selling hot dogs.

When asked if she would quit, the 10-year-old replied: "I ain't leaving until it's over."

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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