Texas A&M University professor shares entrepreneurship principles with preschoolers for holiday bake sale

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On Tuesday (Dec. 20), preschoolers from Texas A&M University’s Becky Gates Children’s Center will put on a holiday bake sale utilizing entrepreneurship principles taught by Texas A&M Associate Professor Dr. Malini Natarajarathinam.

Natarajarathinam, from the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution (ETID), was invited by Kay Myers, the Tigers class teacher, to speak with the class to share some business tactics everyone can understand – even preschoolers.

The class is tasked with putting on a holiday bake sale, proceeds of which will go toward buying a gift for the class.

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Natarajarathinam, initially worried that the kids may not understand the complex material, was surprised at how rapidly they got it.

“The first thing in any business plan that we teach here is knowing your value proposition,” said Natarajarathinam. “I wanted to just talk about this one thing but ended up teaching almost all the elements of the startup business model canvas because they were just so interested and kept talking about it.”

Natarajarathinam was direct with the class: “Why should anyone buy from your store? What makes it special?”

One 4-year-old piped up, “We are right here! They don’t have to go anywhere else to buy baked goods!”

This selling point, known in business terms as proximity to customer, was a very good answer.

But they weren’t finished.

Our bakery is definitely gonna be yummy and fun and we look cuter than anyone else!” said another.

Who could argue with that?

With their attention captured, Natarajarathinam went on to teach them that what makes their store special is known as value proposition.

“By the end of the class, it almost became a magic phrase to them as they sang VALUE PROPOSITION! VALUE PROPOSITION!” said Natarajarathinam.

“This is something that I teach in my classes, but I never thought to put it that way. Value proposition is what makes a business special. These kids taught me a clearer way to explain it.”

Moving on to other business principles, Natarajarathinam talked about who they wanted to sell to and how they would market themselves. Originally the bake sale was going to just be for the students’ family and friends. Now? Everyone is a welcome customer.

“We could sell to all the parents (not just theirs) and other friends. The babies don’t have to buy, but their parents can!” said one child.

“We can sell to strangers but we shouldn’t talk to them but we can still tell them that they can pay us money,” a more cautious one said.

“WE CAN SELL TO THE AGGIES!” a bunch screamed, and their target customer was agreed upon. “They can come to us on the Aggie buses!”

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Thoroughly impressed, Natarajarathinam went on to share ideas on how they could reach these target customers via different engagement channels and working with business partners.

“I taught them three main principles that day: value proposition (what makes them special), customers (who will buy their goods), and partners (who will help them make and sell their goods),” Natarajarathinam explained.

The only trouble the class had understanding was cost projections; according to them, their cookies should cost about $100 each.

“We were able to negotiate a better price thankfully,” Natarajarathinam said. Parents and potential customers can breathe a sigh of relief.

The class even delved into hiring construction workers (teachers and parents) to help build their bakery and getting the proper permit from Ms. Kisha (center director) to make sure everything was approved.

The Children’s Center regularly has faculty come in and share some of their expertise with the kids to keep them engaged and learn new things. The students say what they are interested in that month, and faculty who are willing to share their knowledge come and speak.

Natarajarathinam was proud to say that this was her second presentation; previously, she discussed other business principles with the class last year about forecasting demand at a lemonade stand.

For those interested in the class’ holiday bake sale, the Tigers class bake sale will be in front of the school from 3 - 4:30 p.m. All food sold will be nut-free.