Somerset mixers: Students gain real-world experience through drink-mixing business

Henderson’s Somerset Academy student Matthew Shive wipes down the school’s juice bar counter as his classmate Nigel James rinses repurposed cocktail shakers in a nearby sink.

Eighth-grader Tyler Hamilton organizes the group’s inventory of drinks and flavored syrups before the next wave of students hits the cafeteria.

It’s the calm before the storm.

“We have two to three workers in here at a time,” Hamilton said. “One person is running the cash box, another is making drinks, and the other just jumps in and helps where we need it.”

The academy’s middle school business students created the juice bar in January using lessons and materials taught in class.

“I feel that these students are future business leaders and/or owners,” said principal Reggie Farmer. “They are creative, driven and understand at a young age how difficult it is to not only start a business but to create a successful business.”

The bar offers a variety of drinks by mixing lemon lime Gatorade, lemonade, Tang or tropical punch Kool-Aid with flavored syrups.

While customers are free to create their own combination, the top-seller specialty drinks include the Tropical Shark (Tang with passion fruit, coconut and mango syrups) and the Cherry Shark (lemonade with cherry syrup).

“We run the juice bar during all four lunches and some after-school activities,” Hamilton said. “A good day is $40 to $60, but we make about $20 to $25 on average.”

To establish the juice bar, the students were responsible for writing a business plan that included a company description, marketing and operational plans, list of products and services, profit margins, projected profits, work schedules and more.

In addition, those interested in management positions created resumes and were interviewed by the office staff. Hamilton was named the chief executive officer, sixth-grader Koskani Montoya the vice president, sixth-grader Claire Pormento the finance head, James the marketing head and Shive the graphic design head.

During an hourlong business presentation, the head team pitched the juice bar idea to Farmer, who agreed to give them a $500 interest-free loan as long as they paid it off by May 1.

“They paid off the loan on April 15,” Farmer said. “I was pretty confident that they would do it. (Hamilton) and his team were pretty aggressive with their marketing and were dedicated to working not only during school but after hours to make their money.”

The business class was created this school year due to students’ persistent interest, according to teacher Danielle Ranney.

“It was just teachers listening to what students were interested in,” she said. “My mother taught business at Chaparral (High School), so I picked her brain a little and decided to create the elective.”

Through guidance and instruction, Hamilton said Ranney allows the students to pursue any idea no matter how ludicrous it sounds.

“She’s more like an adviser than a normal teacher. She isn’t afraid to let us learn from our mistakes,” he said. “For example, we worked on a business plan to start a smoothie business for two weeks before Mr. Farmer said we couldn’t use blenders at school. Ms. Ranney knew that the whole time, but she let us experience the mistake so we could learn from it.”

In addition to making the drinks, the students are in charge of checking their inventory, ordering supplies and monitoring their budget.

Through their profits, the business class has loaned money to other school clubs and purchased a street sign named for Farmer in honor of Principal Appreciation Day May 1.

“Some of the teachers came up with the street sign idea but couldn’t fund it, so I’m glad we were able to step up and give back,” Hamilton said. “We’re generating funds that will help the community and help the school.”

Farmer said the business class and juice bar allows students to apply what they’ve learned to real-life situations and helps them understand the importance of teamwork.

“My goal is to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 business,” Hamilton said. “Mr. Farmer is one of my biggest role models because he helped mold me and gave me a class to gain the skills I need to do that.”

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To reach Henderson View reporter Caitlyn Belcher, email or call 702-383-0403. Find her on twitter: @caitlynbelcher.

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