HANNIBAL, Mo. -- For some of the nine high school students in Hannibal's newly formed Young Entrepreneurs Academy, starting their own business is a personal matter.
"My dad was born with a missing bone in his foot," said Rashelle Porter, a Monroe City High School junior. Her sister has foot problems, and Porter has them, as well. Having comfortable shoes to walk in is a priority for her.
As part of the entrepreneur program that works with teens to develop their own businesses and then obtain an actual business license to run it, Porter said her first thoughts were of helping her family through her business. She is working on creating orthotic shoe inserts.
"It's been a dream of mine since I was 12. Now it's a reality," Porter said.
Over winter break, she created a container to hold a mold of her feet. In early January, she tested out molding materials to her plaster feet. It was a good trial run that revealed that she needed to buy a different type of orthotic material for her second attempt.
Rebecca Garrison, a Hannibal High School sophomore, also was inspired by her family when coming up with her budding business idea of an organic food truck or stand.
Her father died from heart-related problems, Garrison said, and she suspects it was because he didn't have healthy eating habits. Garrison researched the demand for organic food and found it to be high.
"I come from the East Coast, where there's a lot of food trucks," she said of her means of selling organic food. "I want to start with smoothies, which are easy, and grow it into more food."
Garrison anticipates selling her smoothies to tourists whose numbers swell in Hannibal during the summer.
Other students in the program took field trips over Christmas break for research and made product prototypes.
Hannibal High School sophomore Jessica Stinson traveled to Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., and talked with coffee roasters about the best approaches for her coffee bean-roasting business idea. They took her behind the scenes and showed her how to create decaf coffee, nitration and other aspects of bean roasting.
"I've always been fascinated with coffee," said Stinson, who has been drinking it since she was younger and has an interest in creating the perfect brew. Her other passion is tae kwon do, and her mom recommended she combine the two.
At that suggestion, Kickin' Koffee was created.
"I've been experimenting with different types of beans," Stinson said. She roasts them in an old popcorn machine at home, and the goal is to package her beans in bags designed with tae kwon do motifs.
Fellow entrepreneur Emilee Carleton, a Hannibal High School junior, has been creating soy candles for her business, La Lumiere, the French word for "light."
"It is something I can do on the side," Carleton said of her business plans. "I wanted something to accommodate the home. It is marketable to everyone."
Her goal is to sell her soy candles in boutiques in downtown Hannibal. She's created candle prototypes as part of the entrepreneurial program, and she's been burning them at home, necessitating more prototypes. But, Carleton acknowledged, each prototype is getting better than the last.
Quincy, Ill., home-schooled sophomore Karrigan Jones "has been painting like crazy" to stock her Etsy shop, Calli on Callaway, with canvases that have hand-painted Bible verses and quotes on them. She has a talent for calligraphy, and her business idea would turn her hobby into profits.
"I've done this as a hobby for several years, and my friends would come over, see what I've done, and say they'd pay me to do that for them," Jones said. At the end of the entrepreneurial program, her Etsy shop will launch, and she'll be available for custom creations.
"I'm so impressed with the progress they've made with all they have going on in their lives," said McKenzie Disselhorst, Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. "They've put in a lot of work."
Up next for the group is to work with volunteer graphic designers to create business logos. Local business leaders who serve as mentors are meeting with students to review their business plans and offer advice. The program ends in May.