This is a repost of the original article written by Kathleen Johnston Jarboe, that was once featured on the Daily Record of Baltimore’s website. It’s no longer found on the site or archives. No copyright infringement is intended is re-sharing this article.
When M&T; Bank’s top Baltimore executives gathered in their boardroom yesterday, they didn’t meet a typical client. Instead, five teens dressed in matching button-down Oxford shirts faced the bankers. With slides, sales projections and market research, the Digital Harbor High School students launched a presentation hoping to gain a $5,000 loan to start a school store. The meeting between executives and students, members of a national club founded to foster entrepreneurship in low-income schools, marked the first time Baltimore club members had pushed a business plan far enough to win outside financial backing. Bank employees had been mentoring the kids for months.
But officials still had tough questions. What would happen to the store and the loan when four of the five teens graduated in June? What are your competitive advantages? Would you invest your own money in the store? Some of the answers were a little bit more honest than one might expect in a regular loan interview. When M&T; Mid-Atlantic President Woody Collins asked what the teens would do if sales fell below their expectations, senior Erin Schofield Jr. said he would follow his father’s advice to be persistent, and he would pray. The kids munched on donuts and listened to advice as mentors and executives grilled them. Two teens admitted to feeling nervous at first. Darrien Griffin, the club president, said he had imagined a much longer table with many more bankers judging the project’s merit. Nine mentors and executives sat across an oval shaped wooden table. “Before we ever came, I was really nervous”, Griffin said. The store, to be called RAMdom Access after the school’s Aries-like mascot, plans to sell school basics, technology supplies and school-themed clothing and accessories. Club members have already converted an unused room in the technology- oriented school to serve as the store. And the school and teachers have lent an initial $4,000 in startup funds. The students belong to a club run by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. The program started in Baltimore close to three years ago. Now about 1,200 students in 12 Baltimore schools belong to the organization. Teens annually develop business plans and submit them in local and national contests sponsored by the club. One local student has won a country-wide prize for his proposed disc jockey business plan. The event yesterday was the first to see bankers’ dollars follow a plan. Bankers agreed to lend the group $5,000 at 4 percent interest, with a few stipulations. They wanted students to develop a succession plan and to report on the progress. The bank also agreed to donate money toward purchasing a school mascot costume if the school agreed to name the furry ram Nifty – a reference to the club. If you succeed, we’re going to succeed. We’re only as strong as the businesses in this community, Collins said after announcing the bank’s decision. We have a vested interest in your long-term effort and success. The teens smiled on hearing the news. Griffin hugged his teacher afterward. “I’m so proud of you guys. All that work paid off.”, said teacher Vickie A. Wolverton.
Copyright 2006 Dolan Media Newswires
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.