Jose Garcia has an idea that could make him rich.
It’s a board – sturdy, light and relatively cheap – that holds 20 tic-tac-toe squares made from red construction paper. You can take the board in the car and play with a passenger at red lights. Stick it in your backpack and challenge someone between classes. And, with a price tag of $3, you can just toss it in the trash when all the squares are filled up.
"It’s for people who like playing tic-tac-toe," said Jose, who will be a third-grader at Roosevelt Elementary School in Tacoma in the fall. "Everyone likes playing tic-tac-toe."
And Garcia had a chance to test his prototype in the open market. He was one of 53 elementary students taking place in Kid City, a two-week day camp at the Portland Avenue Resource Center that allows the campers to run businesses to learn financial responsibility and planning skills.
The campers, who come from McKinley, Blix and Roosevelt elementary schools, were split into seven groups selling everything from manicures to hand-drawn cards to snacks. They spent a few hours every morning honing their budding business skills, like writing checks, keeping inventory and filling out paperwork. They played outside during the afternoon.
"It’s a nice mix," said Laura Rodriguez of World Vision, the Federal Way-based international charity that ran the camp. "They’re having fun inside, but we also let them use the pool and play on the basketball court because that kind of fun is important too."
The kids officially "opened" their stores to the community last Friday afternoon. More than 100 people used the brightly colored Kid City money to purchase an array of goods.
The prices weren’t exactly similar to what consumers can purchase from stores: A greeting card cost $10, a shell bracelet was $15, a Polaroid snapshot was $12 and glow-in-the-dark slime was $40.
They campers earned a salary after each day and used the cash to purchase materials. They then tried to make a profit from their sales. The team with the highest profit at the end of camp earned a gift bag stuffed with pencils and toys.
"It’s a lot of fun," said Cesar Baltazar, who will be in sixth grade at Gault Middle School. "I’ve made a lot of friends here."
And some kids learned one of the most important rules of business: Know your target audience. The most expensive item for sale was pizza – at $50 a slice. And the bakery group sold enough slices and other goodies to make more than $4,000 profit, the largest of any group.