When I showed up to Leo Hayes High School to interview the staff of Cocoamotion, I was certainly not expecting a group of enthusiastic students working hard on a Wednesday night. (Having watched Mean Girls four times, I consider myself an expert in teenage culture.) The room was full of mugs in the process of having a chalkboard surface applied, and the atmosphere put most corporate cultures to shame. They were genuinely excited about their product, and even over the course of the interview they were coming up with new (good) ideas.
Cocoamotion is one of four companies from the Junior Achievers Company Program in Fredericton. Junior Achievement is a Not for Profit Organization that provides youth with experiences that promote financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness skills. The Company Program teams high school students with professional volunteer consultants to design, organize and operate a real business. It basically blows your typical high school entrepreneurship class out of the water.
The team sells $7 specialty mugs with 2 mugs worth of hot chocolate and marshmallows and a stick of chalk. The face of the mug has a rectangular chalkboard surface that allows you to doodle, erase, and re-doodle.
When asked about the idea, the team responded that they wanted to “make” something versus buying an assortment of things, repackaging them and selling them for a profit. Mugs had been done by teams in previous years, but no one had ever made it possible for the consumer to personalize them.
Cocoamotion could have appeared to be somewhat of an underdog in this competition. They have the fewest members AND the fewest number of consultants. They also have a fairly young team. Of the 22 members there are 2 in grade 11, 1 in grade 10, the rest are in grade 9 and none of them have ever taken part in the Junior Achievers program before. When asked about how they feel their numbers affect their sales, they noted that they all have to work harder, less people can slack off and everyone has to pull their weight. However, they did note that it might make it a little easier to coordinate amongst the group. In addition to the three hours per week they dedicate to the project, they’ve added a few extra hours to keep up with demand.
In week 10 of an 18 week project, the team has already broken even. Out of 14 teams across New Brunswick they are one of three who have been able to accomplish this. They also noted that while other teams’ sales appear to be slowing down, theirs are picking up. When asked about the pricing they noted that they wanted to charge $5, but they wouldn’t be making much off it. Most teams were charging $10, but at $10 people start thinking more critically about their purchase, and so they settled on $7. They also had the foresight to purchase a food license so they could sell their products at the market, exclaiming that their product fit well with the market clientele.
The entire process has been a learning experience for the whole team. They admitted they didn’t really know what they were doing at first and a lot of what they know now came from trial and error. When I asked about the communications strategy they noted that it kind of developed on its own. They knew they were going to use Facebook, and they created some posters to put up around the school. Since then, they have added a kijiji ad that has received almost 200 hits since December 10th. All of the members have been using their own social networking sites to promote the product as well. Also, in the near future they plan to launch a twitter site.
I know what you’re thinking …and you are correct. The bovine steroids in our meat have mutated our children into successful capitalists much faster than previous generations. I would have loved to have sat there and listened to them continue to come up with new ideas, but they kicked me out at 8pm so they could spend more time working.
Cocoamotion will be at the W.W. Boyce Farmer’s Market this Sunday from 10am to 3pm. If you can’t make it to the market, track them down on Facebook
Or respond to their kijiji ad
I want to thank all of the members of Cocoamotion who met with me.
James (VP of Production)
Juno (VP of Marketing)
Alec (VP of IT)
Kyusung (VP of Finance)
See you at the market on Sunday!!!