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Founder Claims No Green Thumb But Regency Grows Company Thrives

Strawberry plants for sale at Regency Grows Company.

J.R. Pilyih claims he never started a garden before, but you would never know that when you step into the Regency Park Elementary School.

In a classroom dedicated to a large scale aquaponics growing system, J.R. and his young entrepreneurs tend to the green plants and thriving fish. The harvests are so abundant in herbs and berries that a richer learning opportunity develops by selling what is grown. Through their EdCorp, Regency Grows Company, J.R. watches more than plants grow…his students are undergoing authentic entrepreneurial learning along the way.

The employees of Regency Grows are fifth-grade students who arrive at school an hour early to manage the business. Let’s take a look at what a typical morning business meeting is like for these students.

Work begins at 8:00 am.

Students of the Business Department are meeting together, while the Ag Department harvests and packages their product.

The Business Department meets to discuss details of their business model and packaging of their products. They research how many ounces of herbs should be in each bag and the price of each item.

The Ag Department checks in at the aquaponics room. The leaf lettuce is ready to harvest, so they get to work cutting the right pieces. The room is a learning museum where students take tours and see how plants grow using hydroponics and aquaponics. There are many moving parts to an aquaponics system, like testing the pH levels of the water and making sure fish are not overfed. The students do every bit of this work, taking their jobs very seriously.

Two members of the Ag team harvest the lettuce leaves.

Meanwhile, in the Regency Grows production room, other members of the Ag Department are experimenting with new soil. The students want to sell strawberry starter plants, but plants are dying, and they believe the soil has something to do with it. They bought improved potting soil and set to work replanting the strawberry shoots. Students hope this experiment will work so that they can grow more starter plants – which they realize is a more viable product than the actual berries.

By 8:20, the students are busy planting and harvesting.

There’s more to do in the cafeteria, where they keep a tower of plants filled with herbs and kale.

This tower is a robust, green oasis in the corner of the cafeteria. The Ag Department decides the mint is ready to harvest. While they gather a big pile of mint leaves, the aroma permeates the room.

The Business Department communicates how many ounces of mint should go into each bag. The Ag team weighs out the mint, packages then labels each packet for sale. That morning, their yield is eleven bags.

Eleven bags of mint for sale.

At 8:30, the Business Department has concluded their meeting.

They know their business model, understand their customer, their products, and their packaging. They do a quick check on the Regency Grows website using their smartphones, proud of the website they are building.

Three third graders stop by the aquaponics room to see if they can assist. J.R. knows the students love to help the business so he enlists them to make sure the cover is put back on the aquaponics fish tank. As the business concludes for the day, school bells ring, and it’s time to set the business aside, turn back into elementary students, and get to class.

J.R. and his students make growing a business look easy, but it’s evident that the growth over the past three years is partly due to J.R.’s persistence.

“There was a point where I said ‘Why am I doing all this extra stuff?’ But support from Real World Scholars kept me going.” – J.R.

J.R. sends an email to the parent-teacher organization to report the day’s harvest and eleven bags of mint for sale. By the end of the school day, Regency Grows sold six bags. One customer, Melissa Schimmer, wrote a thank you email to the company and included a photo of her mint water. Customer reflections like this validate the Regency Grows business and the students’ efforts.

Twitter post featuring customer testimonial for RGC mint leaves.

See the Regency Grows Company website for their product offerings at regencygrowscompany.com.

You can find more stories of EdCorps in the classroom at www.realworldscholars.org.