Bonnie Brae Youth Launch On-Campus Business
After 6-8 weeks of research, planning and preparation, youth involved in Bonnie Brae’s Work Experience Program have officially launched “Knights Vending” on the Bonnie Brae campus and they are already off to an incredible start.
Residents Nate and Corey shared that the idea stemmed from wanting to be able to offer some affordable drinks and snacks to staff, residents and visitors to campus. “There used to be a vending machine on campus, but it was often empty and didn’t always have the kinds of things we wanted.” After sharing this with some key staff members, the idea for the vending business began to take shape.
Guided by Director of Operations, Jason Bossart, Recreation Director, Stan Lahens and Recreation team-member Kiara Abrieu, youth were identified to join Nate and Corey in conducting market research and creating, then defending a business plan in support of the vending machine business.
First they created a mission statement for their business: “creating an inviting environment for youth, families and staff who visit and work on campus.” They then launched a marketing campaign which included creating a survey and seeking participation from approximately 250 “potential customers” from the Bonnie Brae community. They compiled their findings and used the information to research items and pricing and then developed costing and calculated net margins. It was important to them that Bonnie Brae youth be able to afford some of these items, so in making their final selections, they kept price in mind as well as their net margin: items that were too costly and couldn’t provide a high enough margin, were eliminated. They also researched vending machines, both new and refurbished, comparing vendors, pros, cons and price-points.
They used the valuable research and information they had gathered to create a business plan and then began preparing to defend it. They watched episodes of “Shark Tank” and practiced for their presentation to Bonnie Brae CFO, Ann Wendlocher. Ann shared, “I was impressed with the amount of time and market research the boys did to prepare. They made a very good case.”
Once they received approval, they set forth to find the right vending machine, at the right price. After viewing several models from different vendors, they found a refurbished machine they liked and negotiated the contract down a bit to include a warranty and some extra parts. They shopped for their products, the machine was delivered and the business was born. With two weeks under their belts the boys are pleased and proud that they have sold 250 items, and have made more than $246.
Their focus now is on maintaining and growing the business. They are checking stock every two days and have already shopped to replenish inventory. Youth Nate and Corey, are working to identify and interview potential youth to participate in the business as they would ideally like to have a team of 5 youth. Once “hired,” it will be their responsibility to train their new youth employees. They hope to grow the business in the future, by perhaps adding machines in other key locations on campus such as the new family resource center and/or one of the outpost cottages. Their ambitions aren’t confined to just the Bonnie Brae campus; ultimately they hope they can expand their model into the community, operating vending machines at other locations.
When asked what their favorite part of the experience has been the boys shared that “watching it succeed” has been the best part. They are also thrilled with everything they have learned. Corey hopes to have his own landscaping business someday and he said this experience really taught him a lot that will help him with that. They also made the decision to donate some of the profits back to Bonnie Brae to support programs the youth are interested in.
Staff involved also found it to be a worthwhile experience in helping our youth not only to develop new skills, but also to grow and prepare for their futures. Director of Operations Jason Bossart shared, “As an agency we are best when departments cross collaborate to create innovative programming and opportunities to help our youth. In addition to programmatically breaking new ground, the experience has been both challenging and rewarding for the youth and the staff. The youth took risks and overcame obstacles. I am proud of all who participated and helped us get to this point.”
Recreation Director Stan Lahens and Staff Kiara Abrieu both added that, “the youth will never forget this experience and will definitely take what they learned with them when they move beyond Bonnie Brae.”
To learn more about Bonnie Brae's Work Experience Program, visit https://www.bonnie-brae.org/services/work-experience/