The Colosseum opens for business
Tuesday, Jan. 31, will be remembered as the day student entrepreneurs rolled up their sleeves and got busy running their own retail store at Somerset High School.
Fourteen students, enrolled in business and information technology instructor Jen Sutton's entrepreneurship class, joined representatives from the chamber of commerce, First National Community Bank, KB Custom Cabinets, Wittstock Builders, and Carpeting by Mike for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the store for business.
"First National Community Bank provided us with a very generous donation of $10,000 as seed money," Sutton said. "Al Wittstock and his crew put in a huge chunk of time and donated a lot of materials. Carpeting by Mike donated our flooring and KB Custom Cabinets provided the cabinets."
Beckah Whitlock, executive director of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, awarded the young entrepreneurs with their first badge of success, a non-voting membership in the chamber.
The students, who all happen to be seniors, are responsible for building the store from the ground up. To secure the donation from the bank, the students had to devise and present a business plan and budget. Once the bank agreed to provide the funding, the class used the money to purchase inventory and equipment for the store. They also designed the physical layout for the store, determined the pricing scheme for merchandise and refreshment items, and worked out the staffing for the store.
When it came to naming the new store, all of the students submitted their ideas. After several rounds of deliberation, they settled on The Colosseum, a name submitted by Caitlin Tighe.
"The kids picked everything out, designed everything and priced everything. You name it, they did it. We visited a handful of different school stores and based what we did on their successes. The students conducted a survey to see what kids would pay, and then determined how much to mark up merchandise," said Sutton.
Students are not paid for working in the store but do receive class credit for their hours and invaluable experience. Part of that experience included training everyone on how to deal with cash, check and credit sales. Two students were trained as managers, Caitlin Tighe and Grace Koshenina. Shifts are always manned by at least one manager and two employees. Several of the students brought retail experience with them from previous jobs working at Walmart, Target and other local retailers. The plan is to continue to staff the store with students from the entrepreneurship class going forward.
The store sells school apparel and accessories as well as coffee and cappuccino.
The store is currently open weekday mornings before school starts from 7:30 a.m. until the bell at 8 a.m., during homeroom, as well as for home athletic events and a handful of other events, such as parent-teacher conferences.
According to Sutton, the first goal during the inaugural year of the store is to break even financially.
"Our hope is that we can at least break even this year and maybe come out at the end with a small profit to provide scholarships for the kids that are working. But leaving a legacy is part of the concept this year as well," said Sutton.
The students are contemplating plans to operate the store throughout the summer and looking at the potential for selling online in the future.
For now, their online presence is limited to Facebook at shscolosseum and Instagram at @thecolosseum.