Photos by Cameron Flaisch

VERY VANILLA, CALMING COCONUT, LEMONGRASS, & SUCCULENT CINNABERRY are flavors of the sweetest thing to come out of Rome, Ga., in a long while; and no, they aren’t new flavors for Coca Cola or some other well-known product. They are the scents of a hot new brand of sugar scrub made by Sugar Kids Beauty (SKB) with the help of teachers at Elm Street Elementary School.

SKB is the entrepreneurial baby of a bunch of kids, actually. It is a business managed and manufactured by first-grade classes at Elm Street. With the help of their teacher, Ashley Greenway, they have sold over 1,000 units to date, and at $10 a pop this business is proving to be very profitable.

So, how does it work? SKB’s website explains it like this:

“The first-grade classes are collaborating on this entrepreneurship, with each class acting as a department of the company. Students are engaged while learning about marketing, social media, finance, research, development and ship-ping. Students will use profits to reinvest in the business, fund school projects and donate to a local charity.”

SKB operates under the umbrella of Real World Scholars, a non-profit 501c3 based out of California, which provides the digital store front as well as legal, financial and all-around support. Without the organization, none of this would have been possible. Real World Scholars is a brand-new program that only a handful of schools are participating in, though the word is spreading with the news of SKB’s success.

“My students will not give out our recipe,” Greenway says. “Not even to our school principal.”

Initially, Greenway hoped this project and partnership would help improve attendance, test scores, and participation, and she is happy to report that all have improved dramatically.

“[The students] aren’t staying at home,” she says. “They want to be here and they want to be a part of Sugar Kids Beauty. These are experiences these kids would never have had without the support of Real World Scholars.”

One big factor in SKB’s success is something Greenway didn’t account for at first – parental participation. Parents turn out in force at all the festivals and expos SKB participates in; they encourage sales and the students always match their enthusiasm.
“Hi I’m Angela. Do you want to buy a sugar scrub? My favorite is Lemongrass,” says the first-grader, a certified mixologist for SKB.

Youth plays a role in sales for SKB, as these 6- and 7-year-olds are not yet touched by the harsh realities of social awareness. Cuteness is also a major factor. Like a hammer, these kids hit the nail on the head with every customer interaction – and the numbers prove it.

Within the first 15 minutes of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce’s Business EXPO in November, SKB sold 15 units of sugar scrub. By the end of the day, a total of 150 units had been sold – at an event that is typically known for free merchandise. Ask any vendor at the EXPO and they will tell you that it is all about putting your brand out there via promotional items. SKB broke the mold by turning their presence into a “sellable” opportunity. Who knew first-graders would be the entrepreneurial avant-garde in Rome?

Compliments and praise flooded in at the Business EXPO as the students ran through the entire purchasing cycle for their customers with little to no prompting by their teachers. Dressed in SKB aprons, the children shared samples, took orders, packaged merchandise in chic bags, wrapped their scrubs in colorful tissue paper and handled money all on their own. They even performed the jingle they had written themselves.

But the great turnout at the Business EXPO is not a one-off, Greenway explains. “At the Chiaha Festival, our booth was right next to the bathroom and we thought we wouldn’t sell anything there,” she says. “But really, it turned out to be the best placement we could hope for because the folks at the hand-washing stations started using our scrub, which turned into a sales opportunity big time.” As they watch the students work, customers are blown away, asking the teachers numerous questions about funding and training. “But really, the magic of it is that the kids are really making it [the scrub],” Greenway says. “It is all them.”

And it is easy to envision these children operating a retail store. In fact, SKB has a presence in retail with their local boutique partner, Shasta Daisies.

The experiment that is Sugar Kids Beauty is not all about making money, though. These first-graders are giving back, turning their entrepreneurial spirit into a lesson in servant leadership.
“They decided to give some of the money back to the school, some back to the Sugar Kids Beauty itself, and then they all agreed that a certain amount should go to charity,” Greenway says. “We are giving to the Rome Community Kitchen and a few other charities.”

SKB is also planning to help Children’s Health-care of Atlanta as part of a service learning project, compiling arts and craft kits for patients instead of simply sending a check.

The first-graders at Elm Street Elementary have turned a class project into a successful business, learning valuable, real-world skills along the way, giving back to their community, and teaching us all that you don’t have to be an adult to be an entrepreneur. Just don’t ask them how their sugar scrub is made. 

“My students will not give out our recipe,” Greenway says. “Not even to our school principal.” 

Apparently proprietary secrets are not just for big corporations.