Plainville HS entrepreneurship program shows “Creative Expression”

From the Hays Daily News, 2/8/2015

That’s certainly true for the two teachers and 10 Plainville High School students at Cardinal Creations.

The business creating personalized products began this year.

IMG_0447The idea came after a friend told USD 270 Superintendent Gail Dunbar about another school district with a similar business.

Dunbar, school staff and a group of community members toured that business before starting Cardinal Creations.

Money for Cardinal Creations, located at 520 Mill, Ste. 3, came from a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation and a “generous donation” from Donna and Jake Brown, Dunbar said.

Besides tables and chairs, the business is equipped with a laser engraver, vinyl cutter and heat press.

The class, which is a combination of Wade Ditter’s applied business class and Alecia Smith’s consumer services pathway, begins for some students at 8:15 a.m. and goes until 10:45 a.m., Ditter said.

Smith’s students “have to take intro to family consumer sciences, personal finances and entrepreneurship to get down here. When they’re here, they’re in the marketing class and the career and community connections class,” she said. “The kids started this business from the ground up, and we talk about personal finance and entrepreneurship before they get here, and they can apply those skills. The marketing goes right along with that — how to get our product out to the community and promote it.”

IMG_0449While they work on marketing their products, most of their business has been word of mouth as people see what they’ve done.

They welcome new orders and branching out to new projects, Ditter said.

“There are a lot of things we can do. It’s just having the jobs,” he said.

Pricing varies with the project.

“We’re not looking to get rich — just make enough to cover our costs,” Ditter said.

It took students time to find their place, Ditter said.

“Now it’s like they’ve been a part of it, so they understand coming down here that they do fit in somewhere,” he said. “They do have a job to do, and so they’re more comfortable with what they’re doing. They sit down and get started doing something. They understand what needs to be done.”

Dunbar suggested the name Cardinal Creations, and the students discussed others, but “we always went back to Cardinal Creations,” Ditter said.

“The kids came up with the logo design,” Smith said,

Designs on aprons have been popular lately, and producing them is a three- or four-step process from design to finish.

Brent Gehring weeded out the unwanted vinyl parts on a design for a barbecue company apron.

“I don’t really do anything that’s the same every day, that’s like a routine. That’s kind of nice,” Gehring said.

“What they’re doing down here are things they’re applying in the classroom,” Ditter said. “You can only teach so much out of a book. You get them down here and actually applying the marketing concepts, the finance concepts. I tell people we have kids down here that are graphic designers that never knew they could be a graphic designer. We have kids down here in marketing, marketing our stuff that never knew they were marketing. We have decent sales people that never knew they would ever be able to work with a customer and set something up for a customers’ needs.”

“It’s fun to see them grow. It’s a different environment than they’re used to. It’s fun to see kids shine in different areas they’re good at and develop talents,” Dunbar said.

“It’s a nice break from the traditional classroom setting,” said Kyle Fox, Ditter’s student teacher. “This teaches the kids real-world application that you can’t get out of the textbook. I think a lot of business programs will go to this in the future.”

Ditter is in his 17th year at PHS, but working with students at Cardinal Creations sometimes feels like he’s starting over in his teaching career.

“It’s been a nice change. I look forward to coming down here every day, although some days are somewhat stressful. The kids adapt to whatever needs to take place,” he said.

Dunbar said the class will be back next year.

“Every year is going to be different,” Ditter said. “I have a better understanding of what I’ll be doing next year because it was new for me. We want kids to know that we know what’s going on. Well guess what? Down here, sometimes the kids know what’s going on before I know what’s going on, so I’ve had to change my philosophy a little bit, too.”

For some of Smith’s students such as senior Alexis Oliver, the business is a step on their career path.

Oliver plans to get a culinary arts associate’s degree from North Central Kansas Technical College and eventually have a catering business.

The class is “teaching me how to market the business, (make a) business plan, budgets and be productive,” Oliver said.

Kristen Wise, one of two juniors in the class, wants to be a nurse and have her own practice.

“They’re very creative, go-getters, self-motivated. They can express themselves. It’s hands-on learning,” Smith said.

“If you turn a kid loose on a project in the classroom, you’re going to get something you can grade,” Ditter said. “You turn a kid loose on a project down here, although they get graded, their grade is seeing the customer say that turned out real nice. I appreciate your guys’ work. They get more of a satisfaction doing a project down here than they would. Not to take anything away from what’s going away from school, but they actually see the result.”

For more information, call (785) 434-2429 or email