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Prime Products - Building Entrepreneurial Spirit and Success in a Wisconsin Middle School

PrimePenguinsCreating ceramic products to sell begins with many different facets. How will it be made? What kind of products to offer? How will it be glazed? Where will it be sold? All of these questions were researched, discussed and answered by Prime Products, a 6 – 8 grade student-run business from DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

“During the past fifteen years, many students at DeLong Middle School have worked on a collaborative project” Kathy Bareis, Art Teacher and Department Chair, remarked. “These projects teach students how a business operates through designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling products.” The business name was given as a result of the students working during the “prime time” at the end of their school day. Opportunities to work on the business increased to weekends and during the summer as parents and other students gained interest in the program. Parents worked with the children and some of the former employees of Prime Products who have since moved onto high school and college, revisit the group to share new skills and ideas with the team.

Prime Products was founded when Bareis was approached by two different people. One wanting to give students an opportunity to sell their artwork while the other was a student wanting to sell their work. Since its inception in 2000, the program has evolved and the students get to grow their leadership skills while learning business skills.

Bareis describes the program as “a student-run entrepreneurial group that uses art to learn about business. They are using all of their skills from art class and putting them into a real life situation.” Students step into leadership roles and collaborate to keep the business moving forward while learning essential skills.

Like any business owners, the students have to determine how to use their profits. The students invest a portion into their future projects and also give a portion to local programs. In the past 15 years, this student-run business has donated an estimated $15,000 to their community including the Bob’s House for Dogs, Feed My People and the local Children’s Museum.

Prime products SoapdishSo what does Prime Products sell? Ceramic soap dishes (as shown right), birdhouses, ornaments, Toad Houses, photo holders, note cards, vases, magnets (as shown below) and more. Their creations are sold at various locations including events at their school and the Oakwood Mall to the Women's Business Conference and the Wisconsin Art Education Association. Products range in price from $1 to $35. Their range of products, creativity and business savvy are an inspiration to those that are fortunate enough to shop their offerings. In early February, ten students from Prime Products participated in the Banbury Art Crawl during which they sold over $1000.

Prime products magnets

Our team at Mayco Colors is thrilled to have our glazes used in the decoration of Prime Products’ ceramic designs. “We love the Stroke and Coat, Jungle Gems, Elements, Crystalites glazes!” said Bareis. “We would not have the quality product lines without Mayco Glazes!” The Prime Products crew also uses Mayco Designer Silkscreens and other surface decoration techniques.

We found that the business model for Prime Products is similar to other entrepreneurial businesses. The company changes each year based on leadership and assigns co-presidents for each grade level and determines a manager for each product. When asked what the most favored business "practice" for you and your students, Bareis noted, “I have found that teaching art to young people leads all of us in many directions and allows me to learn with them. Prime Products is about learning. This learning has empowered students with a rich experience in a real work force experience.”

At Mayco Colors, our mission is to ignite creativity and inspire ceramic artists of all levels of expertise. With the ongoing success of Prime Products and their wonderful donations throughout their community, Mayco Colors is proud to support the students of Prime Products along their journey of learning as well as real world experience.

This video produced by Prime Products features some of their team in action along with the products they produce.

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