Stephanie Dilbone and Katura Joling felt they’d prepared their business plan well.
The two Calapooia Middle School students had their concept: creating digital data from record albums, tapes and videocassettes. They knew the equipment they’d need. They’d studied their competition. They even had business cards.
But it still made them nervous, both said, to go into Willamette Community Bank and ask president and chief executive officer Dave Wood for a loan.
“I don’t know how serious this bank president is going to take a seventh- and an eighth-grader,” said Dilbone, 12. “You can always hope.”
Fortunately for the two students, the bank visit wasn’t a make-or-break deal, just an exercise in practical business skills.
Wood agreed to listen to business plans from Cindy Etherton’s advanced computer class on Wednesday, part of the American Bankers Association’s “Teach Children to Save” week.
Thanks to some money in the Calapooia activity fund, the businesses will indeed get off the ground, Etherton said. The bank interview was meant to give the students some real-world experience.
Several Albany-area financial institutions, including Umpqua Bank and Northwest Community Credit Union, had special events, activities and education sessions to help boost children’s dollars and sense.
At Willamette, teams of students took turns outlining their business plans while the rest of the group practiced money scenarios with Joan Reukauf, senior operations officer. They took turns acting out skits involving friends and financial pressure, such as what might happen if you lose your friend’s library book or can’t pay back a loan from your brother.
In the CEO’s office, Wood grilled each group on how they intended to manage their inventory, how they would market their venture, how they’d arrived at the loan figure they desired and how they planned to pay the loan back.
“As a group, you want to get together and say, ‘How do we compete against the Walmarts of the world?’” he told a group with a business plan to sell T-shirts and sweats.
The bottom line, Calapooia students found: Monetary decisions aren’t always easy.
Quipped Elias Shearer, 14: “I like spending my parents’ money, but not mine.”