Students in Gloria Quinn’s class found that the best way to beat not getting that part-time job they were hoping for is to create their own.
The Life and Work Skills class at Ramona High School is a place for students with special needs to come together and learn important aspects of the working world. In this case, they were looking to develop employment skills, so the students thought it best to start their own business on campus.
“We considered a long list of ideas (from) selling frozen fruit bars to worm farming,” said Quinn. “Ultimately we wanted a product that would appeal to students and fill a demand. Once students decided on balloons, we began our business plan.”
So, the Bulldog Balloon Company, or BBC, was born, but not without some hard work. After the students decided on the type of business, they went to Principal Tony Newman for permission. Next, Quinn submitted an Associated Student Body (ASB) club request to make it official.
Then students wrote letters requesting funds for the project. Eileen Highley, director of pupil services for the school district, granted money for their start-up costs.
“Without this kind of support, the Bulldog Balloon Company would never have gotten off the ground,” said Quinn.
Next students worked on setting up the store and gaining publicity by handing out balloons with business cards attached.
One period per day in Quinn’s classroom is dedicated to running the business. Students have work schedules when they are “on call” and are responsible for greeting the customer and starting the order.
“I coach through the process, then we discuss what went well and what improvements we can make,” said Quinn. “These kids are extremely supportive of each other. There is usually a round of applause after the customer leaves.”
The business is an excellent way for students to gain confidence and the practice they need in a working situation, said Quinn, who noted that sometimes teens are taken by surprise when hired for their first jobs. This real-life experience has taken the students only a few weeks to make giant leaps in providing excellent customer service.
“Functional skills and appropriate social interaction are essential for making a successful transition into adulthood,” she said. “With practice and coaching, students gain confidence in their abilities and they’re having a lot of fun while learning.
“The students are beyond excited. Everyone has a turn at taking orders, providing customer service and tending the register. They check the work schedule daily and come prepared for work. They’re great employees!”
The BBC is housed in their classroom at RHS and looks just like a balloon store. There are bright Mylar balloons pasted on the wall behind the counter with pricing and options. Behind the counter, you will find an anxious and courteous employee ready to take your order.
“Our first order was placed by our Workability specialist, Jolie Iraheta,” said Quinn. “There was quite a buzz in the room and she was very patient with us. Our first buck is now framed and on the wall.”
The BBC is open during BACE, fourth period and lunch, and the students are accepting orders for graduation.
The crew is already looking toward expansion next year and hopes to deliver gift cards and baskets.
For more information or to place an order, e-mail email@example.com or call Quinn at 760-787-4190.