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‘This is Awesome.’ Huntsville Middle Schoolers Launch Retail Business at Clinton Row Project in Downtown Huntsville

The Young Entrepreneurs Club at Chapman Middle School is the newest tenant to open a retail unit at The Clinton Row Project in downtown Huntsville. (Lucy Berry |

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama– With the help of YouTube and a lot of Google searching, a group of seventh-graders at Chapman Middle School learned how to make their own lip gloss, and now they’re eager to share their product with the world.

The lip gloss, which is made of crayons, castor oil, Shea butter and a touch of vanilla flavoring, isn’t the only product the Young Entrepreneur Club at Chapman Middle produces. They also make handmade jewelry from colored rubber bands and tie-dyed T-shirts.

The middle schoolers are working with the North Alabama African American Chamber of Commerce to launch their very own retail unit at the brand-new Clinton Row Project, a business incubator that opened last month in downtown Huntsville.

Aspiring 12-year-old forensic scientist Kourvoisia Townsend and her 13-year-old classmate, MacKenzie Lowman, took a few minutes after school Wednesday to talk about the storefront, which will be open for a month in the Revolve Gallery.

“I just hope this turns out good,” Lowman said. “This is awesome. I mean, everybody our age should be able to do this.”

The group’s lip gloss costs $1 to $2, bracelets $1 and tie-dyed and screen printed school spirit T-shirts $10. The club also has a contract with a local salon to sell its lip gloss.

The NAAACC partnered with Chapman Middle two years ago to launch the Young Entrepreneur Club, which requires students to take part in a year-long project that teaches the fundamentals of starting and operating a small business.

NAAACC Chief Executive Officer Jerry Mitchell said the kids also identify and/or develop a product or service to sell to the public at large. Last year, the group sold their products at school.

“This year with the folks at Downtown Huntsville, Inc., we talked about having a revolving retail space and having the kids down to apply some of things they have learned,” he said.

Mitchell said the students are enjoying the experience of running their own business because they get to keep the money they make, but they plan to donate a portion of their sales back to the school when the project is complete.

Mitchell, who once operated an information technology company, referred to a Kauffman Foundation study that said the more kids are exposed to entrepreneurship and business, the more likely they are to become entrepreneurs themselves.

“I know my first taste of being an entrepreneur was as a newspaper boy,” he reminisced Wednesday at Clinton Row. “Maybe some of these guys will be our next wave of entrepreneurs in town.”

Townsend, who is on Chapman Middle’s dance team, said her friends at school have already shown interest in shopping at the new downtown retail store.

“People were trying to buy stuff while we were making it,” she said.

The Clinton Row Project, an initiative of Downtown Huntsville, Inc., is made up of several repurposed metal storage units at the Downtown Storage building at the corner of Clinton Avenue and Jefferson Street. DHI is subleasing the 10 x 10 spaces to aspiring business owners at a below-market rate.

The unique retail space is home to eight start-up businesses. Award-winning Elkmont goat cheese maker Belle Chevre is planning to open an anchor store at Clinton Row in the next few weeks.

“Downtown Huntsville, Inc. is thrilled to work with Jerry and these students on this very unique use of Clinton Row,” said DHI Chief Executive Officer Chad Emerson. “It’s an inspiration for us to be involved with these students.”

April 17, 2014

Lucy Berry | By Lucy Berry |

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