April 10, 2011 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
WEST FORK- Middle School Principal Becky Ramsey was caught a little off-guard when six middle school girls brought her a business plan and asked her permission to launch their own company at school. But Ramsey quickly agreed once she saw that these girls planned to donate all of their proceeds to help fund an educational overnight trip for fifth graders.
“They came up with the idea and came to me and asked if they could sell,” said Ramsey who told them they couldn’t sell for personal profit and brainstormed with the girls to come up with the idea of helping fund the science trip.
Since January, these girls have proven to be successful entrepreneurs, cranking out nearly 1,000 products from duct tape. Last week Ducts and Bows presented a $700 surprise check to Matt Pledger, a fifth grade science teacher, to help fund the fifth grade’s annual overnight trip to Ozark Natural Science Center.
“They gave me a check for $700, which is a monster check for selling quarter bows, things that cost a quarter to $3,” said Pledger from a mountaintop on Tuesday as he hiked with fifth graders during the ONSC trip.
Pledger says he promises his fifth grade students at the beginning of each school year that every student will have the opportunity to go on the field trip regardless of their financial situation. He said the trip costs $138 per student and the school asks each family to pay what they can and then holds a number of fundraisers. Pledger said he was still short funds last week and thinks it’s awesome that a few sixth grade girls could get together and raise so much money in such a short time.
“It’s rare to see a selfless act like that,” said Pledger.
Ducts and Bows was launched under the nurturing eyes of Tracey Gibson, a sixth grade social studies teacher.
“Ms. Gibson is like the best teacher I ever had,” said Sierra Byrum, one of Ducts and Bows six members.
“If it weren’t for Ms. Gibson, this would never have happened,” said partner Mesa Kutz.
Byrum and Kutz, along with McKenzie Selph, Miracle Laws, Rebekah Mason, and Madison Coker have crafted hair bows, wallets, purses, men’s ties and bowties and even their own brand of shoes all out of duct tape, and outside of class time. Their shoes, called DABS for Ducts And Bows Shoes, are cardboard clog-like creations covered in duct tape. They’ve also developed their own logo and slogan and promotional flyers announcing where and when they’ll visit to sell their wares.
Kutz says the group was surprised by how well their products sold. She said the first time they set up a table in the lunch room at the elementary school, they netted $90. Their ties have also proven popular at the high school where some of the guys have purchased them to wear to Prom this weekend.
“One time at the elementary, we didn’t have any wallets and had to sit down and make wallets. There was a tower of kids around us,” said Mason.
“One grandma at the elementary school brought money so every person in the class could buy something,” said Coker.
In the beginning, the girls’ parent’s funded the duct tape purchases. But the girls got a large present on Valentine’s Day; two large boxes of duct tape courtesy of ShurTech, the “Duck Tape” branch of 3M.
Kutz said Ms. Gibson received a personal introduction to ShurTech through her father who knew the company’s owner. After Gibson’s phone call, two boxes of Duck brand duct tape arrived in every color and pattern imaginable from zebra stripes to camouflage. Their stock even includes red Razorback duct tape.
“My grandma calls me a duct tape sensation,” said Laws.
Gibson said the girls’ have also created duct tape creations that never made it to market. She said Ducts and Bows recently created a bouquet of roses for a fellow student whose father died. The roses were placed in a basket with a duct tape wallet, duct tape cards and some candy.
The girls also made duct tape signs to cheer on their fellow business partner, Sierra, in the school’s spelling bee.
“It’s built a friendship,” said Selph. “It makes me feel proud of all of us.”
Coker said sixth grade has been her best grade ever. And it’s not over yet. Ducts and Bows have already set their sights on another school project, Tiger Fest, the end of the year school party which includes “bouncy toys”.