Local student using project to help others

Students at the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program have been producing business plan projects for four years, but 10th-grader Felicia Schmutz is doing something rather unique for her venture.
She developed a non-profit business called “Adopt-a-Doll,” where she sells hand-made Guatemalan dolls—complete with an adoption certificate.
And the money she raises from selling the two-inch dolls for $2 each will go towards building shelters for residents in Guatemala.
“I really like helping people and knowing it’s for a good cause,” Schmutz said, noting many families in Guatemala sleep and work in the same shelter.
“There’s smoke from cooking in the same room they are sleeping in,” she noted. “And some get lung disease. . . .
“It’s important to make a healthier environment for the children.”
Each structure will cost $370, and Schmutz already has earned enough proceeds to build two 20 ft. x 20 ft. units, which will be made from corrugated metal.
She decided to develop a non-profit business to help others, instead of selling a product to benefit herself.
And she has done a lot of work to make her endeavour a success.
Schmutz made presentations to several local schools and churches, teaching them about the conditions in Guatemala and about the dolls she was selling to help them.
“I researched names and places in Guatemala, and attached an adoption certificate to make each one unique,” she explained, citing “Macarena” from Santa Catarina, “Herminia” from Monterico Beach, and “Odila” from Quirigua as examples.
Schmutz got the idea to sell the Guatemalan dolls from her teacher, Phil Giles, who had been in Guatemala and brought some of them back.
“He thought it would be good for someone to sell them,” she recalled, noting the first batch of 60 dolls went quickly and she soon found herself getting another 360 dolls, which cost just $1 (U.S.) per dozen.
“It’s too bad for the people who make them because they spend a lot of time on them, but it’s good for raising money,” Schmutz conceded. “And the money is going back to them.”
She stressed she got a lot of support from the community, churches, and students, and has sold nearly all of the 420 dolls she had since beginning the venture in April.
But she’s not sure whether she will continue with her “Adopt-a Doll” business beyond the business plan project.
“It’s been a neat experience . . . and I got to know the teachers better and members of the community, and I learned a lot about marketing and public speaking,” she remarked.
She added she has some friends who are going to Guatemala on a mission trip in November and she will give them the money for the shelters to take with them.
And if she decides to carry on the non-profit business, she’ll have her friends bring back some more dolls.
Schmutz had wanted to go to the Central American country herself and actually have a hand in building the shelters, but she wasn’t able to get a spot with the group.
“I thought [Schmutz’s project] showed she was interested in contributing to not only her local community because she’s involved in other things, but she’s always interested in helping those less fortunate,” Giles said.
Schmutz’s business plan, along with about 15 others, will be submitted to the Northwestern Ontario Business Plan competition next month.
SCAP has had several top winners over the past few years.