Entrepreneurship program helps students launch keychain company

Updated: Nov. 6, 2019 at 11:03 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - Most people know the old saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Five students from Jackson High School took the expression literally by launching their own key chain company which is helping raise money to protect honeybees.

The product is called BeeChainz, and it’s the first student-built business in Cape Girardeau County through the Junior Achievement program at Catapault Creative House.

Jonah Turner, the 18-year-old CEO of the new company, said he never imagined becoming an entrepreneur until he put his skills to the test through the unique program.

“It gets you used to working on something like this and actually learning how to manage and construct and enhance your business," Turner said. “I think it just works so much better than something like sitting in a classroom. It’s been really fun. Everyone is great to work with. Overall I am very happy with how the business has been doing.”

The honeycomb-shaped key chains are 3-D printed with recycled material and can be customized with different colors, imprints and can be chained together.

“You can string together letters to spell your name or maybe your dog’s name," Turner said. "Or we have them where you can frame pictures or get custom engravings, so you could have like a string of family photos.”

Leah Powers manages Catapault Creative House which provided the three 3-D printers for the project and business mentors to give the students feedback through the hands-on experience.

“It’s really been 100 percent on them to make the decisions," Powers said. “On what products is going to meet that target need that they were wanting to identify, and also developing the prototypes, marketing, promoting, everything has all been on them. The students actually pitched three ideas to other professors and staff at the university who are entrepreneurs, and they provided them very valuable feedback.”

The key chains are already being sold at Catapult, Jackson High School, and through Southeast Missouri State’s rotary club on the university campus.

BeeChainz also has a website where the products are sold and 10 percent of the profits go to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation efforts to protect bees and other pollinators across the state.

Turner said the idea came from a funny joke during a brainstorm session about finding a cause to donate to.

“We started making jokes about Jerry Seinfield’s 'Bee Movie" and it got us thinking ‘Bees are actually pretty important,’" Turner said. "We are already BeeChainz we could actually support something so important to the world. I definitely think it has the potential to keep going.”

The students plan on selling the key chains through Nov. 30 but depending on how it goes they may continue the business into the new year.

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