Denim hand bags made from old jeans and belts may be the newest fad at Girls' Middle School thanks to four young entrepreneurs who recently brought the product to campus.
Jamie Bindon, Rachael Rappoport, Maggie Brown and Jaime McConachie designed the environmentally friendly "Buckle My Jeans" bags as part of their seventh grade entrepreneurial studies class.
At the beginning of the school year, the girls in the course joined one of 12 groups to design their own product, form a business plan, pitch their idea to local business leaders, keep their own balance sheets and, at the end of the year, liquidate the enterprise.
Girls' Middle School, a private school, gives the students a little money to start their projects, and then sets them free to design their own products. They had one year to design and execute their business, knowing that the profits would go to a charity of their choice, according to teacher Tricia Kellison.
"Seventh grade can be a time of looking inside," Kellison said. "This helps them get out of their self-centeredness at this age."
The girls met with a local business man or woman once a week, and had a set of investors who were selected to work with the company during "entrepreneurial night," when the girls presented their projects at the Computer History Museum.
Otherwise, the students were in charge of their own business model from beginning to end, Kellison said.
"Girls' Middle School is set up to give young women opportunities that are normally given to men," she said.
The students came up with a wide range of products, including bulletin boards, cork boards, candles and tins, and were given around $100 to get started.
The "Buckle My Jeans" entrepreneurs said they knew right off the bat they wanted to design an eco-friendly product -- a common theme in the class, Kellison said.
"We wanted to use a recyclable product that could be environmentally friendly," McConachie said.
The girls tossed around a few ideas -- including jewelry made from cans -- before settling on the "Buckle My Jeans" bags. Standing outside their school last week, they said it was easy to come up with a motto -- "We've got your jeans in the bag."
Having chosen a name and motto, the four girls started going to consignment stores near McConachie's home in Half Moon Bay to buy old jeans and belts -- they cut off the bottom of the jeans and sewed the denim together using the belt. Eventually they sold about 130 bags for $9 to $15 per bag.
The employees at Senior Coastsiders, a thrift store that raises money for local senior services, were excited by the girls' product.
"She gave us a huge discount," Bindon said.
In return, the girls decided to give nearly half of their approximately $250 profit to Coastsiders. The rest went to Habitat for Humanity, which the girls said they liked because, as McConachie put it, "Habitat for Humanity helps people instead of just giving them charity."
"We like that sense of pride," Bindon added.
Now that they have investors, products and beneficiaries, three of the girls said they are going to continue "Buckle My Jeans," and the school is helping them get a small business license. They hope this class is just the beginning of their business.