Nobody sold any merchandise during a business fair at Maumee High School, but people were cashing in on efforts to raise commercial awareness and connect with potential customers.
"I had not heard of half of these places," said Brian Bigelow, a Maumee junior, just after he walked up to a table, opened a large plastic bag, and said "Trick or treat."
He and his classmates readily accepted free promotional products - such as candy bars, hard candies, gum, pens, and pencils - at about 30 booths at the business fair last week.
Katie Allison dropped into students' bags flashlight/tape measure/keychain combos, compliments of Glass City Federal Credit Union in Maumee. Ms. Allison, the credit union's marketing coordinator, and other business representatives at the fair said the event with a focus on kids as customers was a good marketing tool.
Along with slices of cinnamon crunch bagels, Zac Pinkerton, manager of Panera Bread on Dussel Drive, handed out business cards with details on how students could apply for a job. The business cards were nearly as popular with the students as the free bagel samples.
Maumee High School seniors Marlee Teadt, Nick Zimmerman, and Bobby Chapman organized the event as part of their DECA public relations project.
The business fair was designed to build a bridge between students and the Maumee Chamber of Commerce, said Miss Teadt.
"Kids love free food and hand outs," she said about the successful blend of businesses and high school students.
Students are a good target audience, noted young Chapman, and young Zimmerman said he was pleased with the turnout. "We are seeing a lot more kids than we expected." Students visited the business fair during their lunch hours.
DECA, or Distributive Education Clubs of America, is a national organization dedicated to enhancing educational and career opportunities for high school and college students in the areas of marketing, management, and entrepreneurship.
Several business owners applauded the trio of DECA members for helping to introduce their services and products to the teens at the school.
"This is so fantastic for all the local businesses. The kids get a chance to see us. It's a fun event and a real opportunity in this economy. We need all the contacts we can get," said Connie Peiffer, owner of CJ's Closet in Maumee. She displayed at her booth some consignment merchandise stocked in her store, including shoes, purses, and jewelry.
At the UPS booth, students eagerly accepted offers of little brown erasers in the shape of the familiar UPS truck. A radio player, and lots of UPS logo gear, including a teddy bear, frisbee, and football, were raffled off in a promotional package. Other booths, including the Maumee Indoor Theater, offered raffles of gift baskets as well.
Demetrius Harvey, Jr., human resources recruiter in the metro Detroit district for UPS, said students were stopping at his booth to inquire about job opportunities. "Oh, yeah. They're looking for jobs," he said. Students were told UPS likely would be hiring beginning in March.
Parker MacAllister, 15, who signed up for the UPS raffle, said the business fair was a good way to learn about local businesses, including some he'd never heard of previously, such as Georgette's Grounds & Gifts.
Dianne Westhoven, store manager, told potential customers that gifts sold at Georgette's on Conant Street provide jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities served by Sunshine Inc. of Northwest Ohio and for farmers and artisans around the world. The shop specializes in Fair Trade coffees, teas, and handicrafts from developing countries, something that perked up the ears of students who like a good cup of coffee.
"What kind of coffee is this?" asked freshman Dalton Cleghorn as he stopped by the Georgette's booth and picked up a bag of java. He's a fan of hazelnut coffee, with cream and sugar. "It's Columbian," Mrs. Westhoven told him.
At Craig Cheetwood's Visual Impact booth students checked out the "before" and "after" designs of business cards.
The business fair "is not about selling what we make. It is kind of a career day," aid Mr. Cheetwood of Maumee. He encouraged students to consider starting their own businesses. "Students should do something they like. They should find a career that becomes a passion."
Free pens and brochures were popular attractions at the booth featuring Charlie's Dodge.
Scott Weiss, commercial manager for Charlie's Dodge, said the event at the school raised awareness of local businesses. "It helps to get the name out and lets people know about businesses they can do business with," he said.
Students might not need a car this minute, but someday they will be looking for wheels, and whether they are in a market for a used car or a new car, they might stop by and take a look at what Charlie's Dodge has to offer, he said.
At the Mary Kay booth, juniors Andrea Snyder and Maggie Mockensturm checked out free samples of cosmetics.
"I've had a lot of traffic and the girls are having fun and that is all that matters," said Mary Abbas, an independent sales director for Mary Kay, who described the business fair as "awesome. I think all high schools should do this. It exposes students to a lot of businesses."
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