Trade Expo inspires young entrepreneurs

Booths full of middle school students will occupy the men’s section of Dillard’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Northwest Arkansas Mall.

Continuing into its 22nd year, the World Trade Expo, sponsored by Enactus – a student organization here on campus, offers middle school students from Northwest Arkansas an opportunity to gain an introduction into the world of business.

“We are teaching middle school students basic knowledge about accounting, management and marketing,” said Carlos Lopez, one of the World Trade Expo’s project leaders. “It is a summarized version of what a business major looks like, especially for kids.”

As a program striving to provide today’s youth with entrepreneurship education, Enactus invites students to come to campus for a one-day seminar and provides them with 12 two to three minute videos. The videos include a more detailed tutorial about topics like business and accounting from guest speakers who are experts in their field.

The students then create a business plan. 30 out of 79 business plans from 12 Northwest Arkansas schools submitted for a spot to attend the World Trade Expo were accepted.

“It amuses me the very creative ideas the kids come up with,” Lopez said. “There are things that you’ve never thought of that are really profitable and creative.”

The students bring this plan to life by setting up a booth in the Northwest Arkansas Mall to sell their product.

The middle school students who participated are in the Gifted and Talented Program at the schools.

“Our idea of Gifted and Talented doesn’t mean wealthy, Caucasian and middle class,” said Clayton Anderson, Enactus adviser. “A teacher told me that 80 percent of the kids are on meal assisted program.”

Anderson said the expo geared toward the Gifted and Talented students because they have an extra hour of extracurricular class not mandated by the state.

“Research shows that entrepreneurship and small business ownership is a way for people to provide a better way of life and break poverty cycles,” Anderson said. “It breathes life into why we are doing that.”

The World Trade Expo ends with the awards ceremony and a competition where one team from each school presents their booth and business plan. The five awards this year were for Best Business Plan, Most Environmentally Friendly Product, Best Booth, Social Enterprise of the Year and Best Elevator Pitch.

All the students receive the profits from their booths. Some students thought of donating money to a non-profit organization. The winners, along with the profits from their booths, will receive cash and a medallion.

“This is an experience students remember from middle school,” Anderson said.