Finding a way to sell her products took Harper’s love for sewing and the current need for masks and helped her launch Creations by H. “So, I knew I was always going to make masks for my family but then I was looking online at the stores and I was looking at prices and how expensive they were and since people still want to make money, the prices were really high. So, I thought maybe I could start a website and make them really cheap so that was how I started my business,” Harper explains.
Fifth grade teacher, Sarah Mohr, received masks for her family as a gift from Harper. They liked the masks so much that it led to an order for her husband and his colleague, chemistry professors at UIC, for their graduate students as they re-opened their lab. “Harper’s masks are clearly made with love and attention to detail. They fit comfortably and she carefully selects fabrics that are soft and not irritating to wear for extended periods of time. They are easily machine washable and in fact, her fabric selection considers how they will soften after washing and not pill. Harper also selects a range of patterns so that there is something for everyone,” Mrs. Mohr explains.
The entrepreneurial spirit is undoubtedly present in Baker students and perhaps is even more obvious following a successful Baker Business School (BBS) season this year for fourth and fifth graders and a little extra time at home. Fifth grader, Harper, took what she learned this year through her BBS experience and has launched her own business, Creations by H, focusing on sewing masks for now but with no shortage of ideas for the future.
It doesn’t get much more hand-on than launching one’s own business. When talking with Harper, you can see her wheels spinning as she connects the dots of her own passion for sewing which began at age six through to her newly-formed business. She talks about learning through Baker Business School that it is important for companies to stick to things they are known for. One might argue that it is a logical progression for a child who learned to sew at age six to go onto make masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. She credits both Baker’s art teacher, Ms. Toole and her mom for teaching her to sew.
As Harper launched Creations by H, you can see her BBS learnings in action. She hit the same snag in procurement many others have run into with the elastic shortage. She had to utilize hair bands while she waited about six weeks for her order of elastic to arrive. Her mom, Christine, explained that even fabric has been hard to come by! But, this hasn’t slowed her down.
They worked to refine the design to find one that was able to be replicated by Harper without much help from mom. Her mom, Christine explains, “We initially worked on this together because we wanted to make masks for our family so Harper came up with probably four different designs. She was going online and looking how they were and then we tested them.”
Kerah Sandler, fifth grade teacher, talks about how it has been exciting to see students’ increased focus on social responsibility and ethics as they create their business plans. She explains, “For example, some companies this year purposely used primarily upcycled materials and incorporated climate awareness into their marketing. Some changed the recipes for their products to ensure safety for students with allergies and that child labor was not used anywhere in the supply chain. Some made sure to have a variety of price points so that their products could be accessible to everyone. We are so proud of Harper for incorporating these values into her business and putting her BBS skills into practice in service to the community.”
Harper was working on her website without her mom and dad realizing how serious she was about this business venture. After a couple of nights of toiling at her computer, she approached her dad to help figure out how to accept payment. They made a switch from google sites to Shopify and easily solved that problem. Harper’s next step? Reinvesting in her business and convincing her investors that she needs a new sewing machine in order to scale her business! If you have sewing skills, you might just want to be in touch with this budding entrepreneur.
Check out Creations by H if you need more masks!
— Baker Business School is an integrated unit for fourth and fifth graders that allows them to participate in and direct all phases of the entrepreneurial cycle. As part of the process, they began with a Symposium featuring parents including Rima Touré-Tillery, Matthew Cummins, Jessica Kaplan, Allison Gutterman and others who shared their wisdom. Students also went on field experiences to local businesses including Becky & Me Toys, Wheel & Sprocket, Bookends and Beginnings, Ten Thousand Villages, Squeezebox Books & Music and the Spice House to see what day-to-day business routines look like plus a Skype tour of the Jelmar plant.
From there, students built the foundations of their companies by selecting company names, refining product designs, developing slogans and logos to begin their marketing campaigns. They divided up responsibilities in their roles as CEOS, VPs of Design, Marketing, Manufacturing, Sales and Finance. A really important part of the BBS unit is learning about business ethics and corporate responsibility as well as the labor movement and historical and current struggles for worker’s rights through literature and guest speakers. And, they even pitched their products and financial plans in front of a panel of venture capitalists who helped them move into their manufacturing phases. The entire experience culminated in a BBS Market in December. —