Stuyvesant High School Class

As seen in The Broadsheet Daily, Downtown News March 17, 2011

Toy Story

The Play’s the Thing as Teen Entrepreneurs at Stuyvesant Hatch Biz Bid.

It has been said that you have to think like a child to talk to a child, so that job should be a lot easier for a local group of teen entrepreneurs who are developing a game for children. Dr. Howard Wexler — inventor of the game Connect 4 — and Pam Chmiel’s not-for-profit organization Teen Entrepreneur Boot Camp (TEBC) have launched a pilot after-school program at Stuyvesant High School where 15 students intend to start a toy company and launch a real product into the marketplace by June when the course ends.

Both Mr. Wexler and Ms. Chmiel come to this project backed by years of experience. A long-time Downtown resident, Ms. Chmiel operated the coffee bar Klatch on Maiden Lane for six years, and three years ago, started TEBC as a two-week summer program. She will guide the students through designing a business plan, while Mr. Wexler, who has licensed over 110 products during his extensive career, will guide students as they refine the games. For the students, Ms. Chmiel said, the experience teaches practical business and marketing skills that can be applied across many areas: “It’s a life skill to market yourself and your ideas.”

In addition to the presentations they will be making, Ms. Chmiel and Dr. Wexler have reached out to local business professionals for specific advice before students get to the implementation phase. Some of the lectures so far have included a discussion of branding and product naming with Tribeca-resident Ameena Meer, who heads Takeout Creative, and a talk about package design, toy selection, customer buying habits and marketing from Battery Park City resident Karen Barwick, owner of Boomerang Toys. In February, students also had the opportunity to attend the International Toy Fair at the Javits Center, which is normally only open to professionals in the toy industry.

As the TEBC group moves toward the product testing stage, Ms. Chmiel will work with the students to devise a focus group of young children who can try out new product developed by the TEBC team.

The pilot program is a first step toward expanding the program to other public schools as an after-school program, or as an extension of the curriculum, said Ms. Chmiel, because the proceeds from the Stuyvesant group’s toy sales will go back to support the free TEBC program. “We have no funding right now, so to establish the program, money goes back into it as each toy gets sold,” she explained.

by Dianne Renzulli
photos by Robert Simko

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