Wilbur Cross High School rising senior Nina Javier knew she had to incorporate agriculture into her business venture. Instead of writing a recipe, she created her own carrot body scrub.
On Friday evening, Javier and three other high schoolers from the New Haven Land Trust’s Growing Entrepreneurship Program gathered at the Grand Acres Greenhouse in Fair Haven to present their small business ventures to members of the community.
Through generous donations from New Haven organizations, the program was able to fund the addition of six more high schoolers to join the first group that participated last May.
Since February, 13 high school students have been working in the program, which aims to provide students with valuable work experience while building environmental consciousness through social enterprises. The students were required to not only create mission statements and business plans, but also work out all the finances and assemble their products all on their own.
With jars from Walmart, lots of research for skincare recipes, and a greenhouse full of carrots, Javier put her idea to fruition. Through her hours of careful research, Javier arrived to her ultimate product idea: a carrot-honey sugar scrub. In the coming months, she hopes to “get the business on its feet” and even “branch out to more vegetables.”
“We treat them as employees of the organization,” said Esther Rose-Wilen, who works full-time as a garden education coordinator at the Land Trust. In addition to receiving a professional skills curriculum that teaches them proper email, phone call, and dress etiquette, the students are paid for their time and are allowed to keep all profits from their businesses. “The work they’re doing is really hard,” Rose-Wilen said.
“It’s really important to pay” the students, said Land Trust Executive Director Justin Elicker. He said the “spirit of the program” is centralized on the mission to teach “young people in New Haven” relevant work skills that they can apply to “any job in the future.”
So, as an employee would, these students are expected to come “to work on time” and behave as full-time employees. The organization “respect[s] the time they spend there” through payment. Now the students will work to develop their ideas during a five-week “Youth@Work” summer program.
Like Javier, High School in the Community rising senior Camila Mendez put a creative edge on her own agriculture-based product. She came up with “Hakuna Panada,” a healthful alternative to traditional empanadas that features vegan empanadas made of kale, onions, and spices. With the burgeoning wave of veganism in mind, Mendez said she wanted to find an “option for everybody.”
Mendez has fond memories of biting into tender homemade empanadas her mother has made for her since she was 5. But rather than frying the empanadas in oil, Mendez baked them in an oven for a more health-conscious option that still maintained the crisp texture and rich flavor of the dish’s Spanish roots. She said she hopes to sell her “Hakuna Panadas” in farmers markets where shoppers can snack on them while shopping for organic produce.
Looking forward, Javier has high hopes for the future. “I like the scrub idea,” she said. She even said that a cucumber scrub might be in the works.