Shawnee Mission students use class assignment to set up shop — literally — at Oak Park Mall

Shawnee Mission West students

Shawnee Mission West digital design students now have their own startup businesses — and a storefront at Oak Park Mall where they can sell products — which began as an assignment from their teacher, Tiffany Dixon. Top row from left to right: Josue Hernandez, Aidan Hall, Logan Bennett, teacher Tiffany Dixon, Jaylon Jackson. Bottom row, from left to right: Maha Haidar, Jayla Powell, Tyesha Freeman, Rosmery Avendano.

Some Shawnee Mission West students are selling goods at Oak Park Mall — through their own startups.

Tiffany Dixon’s digital design students started the semester out by creating a website for a business of their own.

But Dixon, a business teacher at SM West, decided to take it a step further and see if she could help students turn their class assignments into full-fledged business.

With help from the district and representatives from Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, several of Dixon’s students are now selling their products through a storefront at the mall.

The store uses QR codes to link to a classroom website, which connects individual student businesses to shoppers and donors. So, customers can’t actually buy things in the store but can use the QR codes to then shop and buy online.

“Anymore with technology, you see front-line jobs going away like cashiers,” Dixon said. “But the reality is technology also opens up the opportunity for young people to be able to be entrepreneurs and start their own businesses easier than ever before — as long as they know they can.”

SM West Oak Park Mall
The storefront at the mall features items from Shawnee Mission West students’ storefronts and corresponding QR codes. Students are paid directly via the QR codes. Above, Jayla Powell and Tiffany Dixon take a photo in front of the storefront. Photo courtesy Tiffany Dixon.

Senior Jayla Powell created a clothing line called L.G.O — Life Goes On.

Like other students, Powell said she didn’t realize the assignment would turn into an actual business. Now, Powell said she’s going to continue to work on LGO after graduating from SM West this December.

“This is basically showing people your talent and what you’re capable of through design and color and websites,” Powell said. “That’ll come a long way in my future.”

Other businesses

Clothing seems to be a popular choice, with several other students launching their own clothing lines, too.

Other businesses include Maha Haidar’s scented candle venture, Celestial Candles.

There’s also Aidan Hall, a senior, who started his own company KC Handmade Goods five years ago and has run a craft fair for local makers the past two holiday seasons.

Hall happened to be in Dixon’s digital design class. Rather than start up his business like other students, Hall was able to use Dixon’s class to improve on his concept.

Hall now sells his goods like tote bags and apparel directly to other businesses. He said he also connected with and hopes to collaborate with Ben Cloud, a SM North student who owns and operates online coffee retailer Clouds Coffee Co.

“It’s cool to be able to do something I really enjoy as part of school instead of the basic textbook learning,” Hall said. “Actually being able to do something that I can take forward into the real world after this, to be able to keep building on it.”

While Hall’s business is up and running, other students still need funds to get their websites off the ground. The total cost for websites, LLC registration and sample items came out to $580 per student, Dixon said.

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation gave the effort a $4,000 grant, and community donors have already raised $2,000, Dixon said. Donations can be made online here.