When an Eastside woman lost her son and business partner and was stuck paying to store unused inventory, members of the Eastlake DECA team saw an opportunity to not only help but learn about business, marketing and liquidation.
Senior Matthew Villeneuve, 17, who was recognized last month as the DECA student of the month by the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, has competed in the club’s competitions by presenting a paper and written presentation about the project.
“I had to talk quite literally about what did we learn about business and marketing, and if it was set to make money,” Villeneuve said.
Students from Eastlake, Skyline and other area schools traveled this week to Atlanta for the national DECA competition.
The club initially heard about the woman who needed help through Villeneuve’s mother, one of the DECA club advisers. The woman and her son had come up with a business to create high-quality costume kits for parties — or “party-in-a-bag” kits. After assembling some start-up money, they had an initial run of the products made. At about the same time, the son was diagnosed with a brain tumor and decided to fulfill one of his dreams by going to college. He completed one semester, Villeneuve said, but died at the end of 2005.
His mother had used the money they had saved for the business to pay for his chemotherapy, so she was left with 1,000 units of a product and company that she didn’t want to move forward with. She stored the units at a storage unit, spending many thousands of dollars on the rental fees.
“This was a liquidation project — how do we go about getting rid of all of this stuff while still maintaining parts of the original business concept,” Villeneuve said. “We wanted to highlight that this was really high-quality, costume-grade things for themed parties. The bottom line was just to get rid of it. We started as a big group doing some market research. We thought, ‘OK, who are we going to sell this to — who is our target market?’”
So, the club members defined their ideal customer as likely a mother with several kids, perhaps ages 4 to 7 who lives on the Eastside and has a higher discretionary spending limit than some.
“That was really fun to invent a fictional character,” Villeneuve said. After that, more brainstorming: “We had a couple of ideas – private contracts, where essentially everyone takes five bags and tries to sell them through their own personal network. … Or, we were going to approach all of the party store retailers we could, sell on consignment, go to daycares and preschools to either sell at their locations or sell to their clients.”
The club members tried those tacks and also met with Costco – where they had fun and learned a lot, Villeneuve said, but it wasn’t a fit.
“That didn’t work out, but it was a cool opportunity,” Villeneuve said.
“Now, we’re in phase , going to all the local PTSAs of five elementary schools and have said that we’ll split the profits with them if they’ll give us access to their rosters,” he said. “We’ve also gone to Children’s Hospital and have been selling the bags through their gift store. That has been really successful.”
Villeneuve said the group is starting to see some promise, and are hopeful. Anyone interested in finding out more or helping out is encouraged to contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At each month’s Sammamish Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the chamber honors a DECA student of the month. The chamber also raised funds to offer a scholarship to a business student, through donations, raffle ticket sales and more.
For more information about DECA, visit www.wadeca.org/ or, for more information about the Sammamish Chamber, visit www.sammamishchamber.org
Wendy Giroux can be reached at email@example.com or 391-0363, ext. 5050.