Trade show valuable experience for NSS students

Seven students from Nakusp Secondary School made an impression at the BC Boat and Sportsmen Show in Abbotsford recently.

Seven students from Nakusp Secondary School made the trek to the BC Boat and Sportsmen Show in Abbotsford, wowing exhibitors and visitors alike with their professionalism.

Bailey Henschke, Whitney Shkuratoff, Emma Cunningham, Dylan Baiko, Jacob Henschke, Abby Bostwell and Cody Desjarlais not only sold fishing flashers, they planned and organized the trip, set up the booth and worked the crowd.

“It was crazy, honestly,” said Bailey Henschke. “It was great. I learned a lot of people skills, like how to carry on a conversation.”

Henschke and Cunningham honed their new skills in part by videotaping a series of short interviews with vendors from nearby booths.

During their stint at the show, the also students talked with folks visiting their booth about Nakusp and their fishing flasher fundraiser for Outdoor Ed, and learned the fine art of selling.

“You could tell if they were interested in the product or not,” said Henschke, who identified the target market for the flashers at the trade show as middle aged men with a fair amount of money.

“It was awesome,” said Dylan Baiko, who was so excited, he woke up at five a.m. the first morning of the show. Baiko learned what it was like to sell something you had invested a lot of time and energy making. “I spent a lot of time building flashers. I definitely wanted to tell everyone,” he said, wanting to turn all that time and effort into something good. “This is our little baby.”

Although the reception was generally positive, there were some mixed reactions to the flashers.The students had to contend with some skepticism about their efficacy, but were professional and kept their cool.

“Some people would flat out tell you it doesn’t work,” said Henschke, “but you have to be nice.” Some people didn’t even believe the students went out fishing, which they all do.

Operators of nearby booths were encouraging, giving the teens good advice about how to talk to people and sell, especially once they learned that it was a group of students that had arranged, set up and were running the booth. The students got more than just advice, they also were given free hats and t-shirts.

The vendors were really impressed by the students’ professionalism, which seemed to grow right before their eyes, NSS Outdoor Ed teacher Dorian Boswell told the Arrow Lakes News.

“As other exhibitors found out we were a high school they’d come and check it out,” he said. The students hadn’t given the impression that this was their first ever trade show, coming in on the first day and efficiently setting up the booth in an hour.

One exhibitor told Boswell that it was an amazing experience watching the kids grow up before his eyes, seeing shy students gain confidence and learn to talk with anyone.

“They were so blown away,” the teacher said about neighbouring vendors, “they really enjoyed watching us over the three days.”

Former NHLer turned fishing star Brendan Morrison bought two flashers, and Gary Cooper and Mike Mitchell came by the booth too.

“Brendan Morrison’s mom knows where Nakusp is,” chimed in Emma Cunningham. One of the highlights for her was being able to use sign language to communicate with one of the visitors to the booth.

Out of the 273 flashers they took down, the students sold 60 at the show, results that Baiko thought could have been better (the sales did cover the costs of making the flashers, though). But, the flashers can now be purchased at the Nakusp General Store, Nakusp Esso, as well as Barren’s Sport Shop in Kaslo, Gill and Gift by the Balfour ferry, and Fred’s Bait and Tackle in the lower mainland.

Teacher Dorian Boswell took a longer view, seeing the trade show as an important investment for the students.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience,” he said, and it was community sponsors made the trip possible.

“It cost around $6,000 for the trip to the show,” he said, with the money coming from local sponsors like Kootenay Savings, Columbia Basin Trust, the Chamber of Commerce, the RDCK and the Nakusp and Area Foundation. “We were so supported by the community,” said Boswell, who noted that any time the students needed a hand, people in the community stepped up to help.

Even before the trip to the coast, the students were preparing, the teacher told the Arrow Lakes News. From taking tourism classes to practising setting up the booth, the students took the initiative and made the trade show trip happen.

By the time the booth was being taken down, the teens had secured three interviews and a donation of fly tying materials. The students put in a ton of work, said the Outdoor Ed teacher.

“They didn’t know how hard they were working until we were driving home,” he said, “the van was silent.”

And this is only the beginning, Boswell believes.

“I think this is going to go pretty big,” said the teacher. “This isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.” There were a lot of outfitters who bought a flasher, and word will spread to and through their clients, Boswell said.

The next step is focusing on marketing and building an online presence, something that Dylan Baiko has already started. Baiko is putting a website together that can be found at www.triflasher.com or www.triflasher.ca which will give the students’ project an online presence.

And while the students got some great experience to put on their resumes, the money they raise will help the next bunch of students have a great experience too.