Entrepreneurship school stores provide opportunities for hands-on learning

Milagro Nolasco, Staff Writer

Passing through the gym lobby, students see vending machines filled with drinks and food. There is one, however, that stands out with its purple hues: the Spirit Box. Both the Spirit Box and The Purple Express cart are run by the entrepreneurship students to provide real world learning opportunities.  

The Spirit Box contains some of students’ basic needs, including headphones, a computer mouse, gum and tissues. Not only does it sell these essentials, but it also features school T-shirts and lanyards. Recently, selections have been updated to include seasonal items such as holiday-themed hot cocoa packets and Hershey’s chocolate bars.

The Spirit Box was installed last school year, and according to entrepreneurship teacher Karyn Jones, Chantilly was one of the first schools in Fairfax County to receive this type of vending machine.

The entrepreneurship students wanted to give their peers the opportunity to use their credit and debit cards to purchase school supplies during the day, since many students do not carry cash. Students in Entrepreneurship 2 plan and design what goes into the vending machine and also take into consideration feedback from the rest of the student body.

The Purple Express cart was created about five years ago to give students in Entrepreneurship 2 practice applying skills learned in Entrepreneurship 1. Students sell items from the cart in the cafeteria during all lunches on B days.

“We were looking to add something for the Entrepreneurship 2 class, something a little more hands-on, to apply what they have learned in Entrepreneurship 1 [in which they have to write a full business plan],” Jones said. “So in the second level, they are able to put what they learned into action, by assisting, overseeing and running an actual business, thus The Purple Express was born.”

The store sells basic needs like pens, pencils and gum, as well as seasonal items. In October they sold fuzzy Halloween-themed socks and Halloween candy. Scarves were offered throughout the fall. As for December, The Purple Express becomes The Polar Express, selling hot chocolate packets, candy, holiday mugs, lip gloss and more. The entrepreneurship students also plan special seasonal events such as Purple Friday, Chantilly’s take on Black Friday.  

Planning for both the Spirit Box and Purple Express is a team effort.

“We have product managers, and the managers usually give their suggestions; a lot of times it’s a class input,” senior and product manager Komal Desai said. “Jones gives us a worksheet, and [the managers] write down the products we think [of], and we vote as a class.”

Although it is important to manage what goes into The Purple Express and Spirit Box, it is equally important to sell the products, and appealing to every student may be easier said than done.

“There are different types of people who are trying to buy [things], like freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, [as well as] guys and girls,” senior and seller Shaan Chudasama said. “It’s hard to find a certain balance for that.”

Regardless, there is something for everybody in these unique school stores.

The Purple Express accepts cash only. On A days, students may stop by Room 566 to buy products sold in The Purple Express on B days in the cafeteria during all lunches. The Spirit Box, which takes credit, debit and cash, is always accessible in the gym lobby. The funds generated through the initiatives go toward the entrepreneurship program, to purchase new products and market them in different ways.

The annual Marketing Day provides Entrepreneurship 1 students with a hands-on learning opportunity similar to the Spirit Box and Purple Express. This year the event was held yesterday and today, and the entrepreneurship students sold products purchased in New York City in the cafeteria during all lunches.

In November, entrepreneurship students went on a day trip to New York to buy products they believe students, teachers and faculty members will purchase for the holiday season or use as stocking stuffers. They use their class time to come up with retail prices, promote their products and create mini businesses for the two days in which they are in the cafeteria.

Before the New York trip, teachers prepare the students by explaining what happened last year and coming up with a plan for what they will purchase and how to market the products.

“Entrepreneurship has been helpful in understanding how to be a successful business owner,” Desai said. “With hands-on experience through The Purple Express and Spirit Box.”