GREAT FALLS — For most of people, the Montana State Fair is fun and games, but for a group of dedicated students from North Middle School in Great Falls, its strictly business.
From coasters to cutting boards, kids in the Grizz Biz program are earning an entrepreneurial edge.
“You don’t have to be a natural born athlete to be a business owner or something like that,“ said Grizz Biz founder and instructor Pat Volkmar. “You just have to have the wherewithal and initiative to run a business and that’s what I’m trying to teach.”
In addition to creating the finished product power tools and laser engravers, they’re learning other valuable business skills like communication and accounting.
“It’s kind of cool, to interact with customers and be able to call people and answer e-mails,” said Quincy Weymouth, an eighth-grade student who serves as bookkeeper. “It’s kind of cool just learning more about the business side, the bookkeeping side of the business.”
“I also learn how to talk to people, like pitch my product to them,” said said 8th-grader Ben Halko.
“We’re training kids what’s to be expected for their first job, not just show up,” said Volkmar. “Think, present yourself, show yourself everyday when you show up.”
Volkmar started the program 12 years ago. Alumni includes several successful area business owners. About 17 kids are in this year’s summer program which also sells products at the Farmer’s Market. The summer program is more deadline oriented, part of their task is engraving the winner’s plaques at the fair within 24 hours.
“I pitch them sell yourself through making or producing, sell yourself through your product, but sell yourself everyday,” said Volkmar.
A philosophy that’s already starting to rub off on business minded Halko.
“My favorite part of Grizz Biz is probably when you make a sale, it makes you feel really good,” said Halko.
You kind find the Grizz Biz kids hard at work in the Mercantile Building each week day during the fair from 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 pm. and 11:00 p.m. on the weekends.