When Sarah Buob moved from Rockford, Ill., to Madison last year, one of her first moves was to join the Wisconsin Women's Entrepreneurs South Central Chapter.
As a freelance graphic artist, she figured it would be the best way to make some business contacts and develop some friendships along the way.
It didn't take long for her to realize her daughter Quinn could accomplish much the same thing by joining the Girls'Biz program co-sponsored by the WWE and the Girls Scouts of America-Badgerland Council.
"I thought it would be good for Quinn because she didn't know anybody up here either," Buob said. "She liked the fact that she could make some money, make some friends and learn a little bit about business and make some money on top of it."
The Girls'Biz group of 13 Madison middle school students is primed for one of its showcase events this weekend when it sets up shop at the Madison Women's Expo at the Alliant Energy Center.
This year's group has formed a company named H.O.P.E, which stands for Helpful Overachieving Powerful Entrepreneurs.
The group forms each year at the start of the school year and meets each Tuesday night to work on projects. After they create their identity, they help design a logo, brainstorm ideas for products to sell, interview business owners, take product surveys, create a business plan, produce and sell their products and eventually track revenues and expenses.
At the end of the year, the girls determine their profit and donate to charities of their choosing. Last year's Girls'Biz group made $1,104 and donated to six charities, with their donations matched by WWE-South Central.
"I love kids at that age and it is really fun to do their business with them," said program director Sally Hested, who has been with the program since its inception in 1996. "It's exciting and rewarding to see them grow as people, grow in their confidence and learn how if you plan things you can see them come into being."
That's a process both Hested and Buob witnessed over the past year and a half with Quinn's involvement in the program.
"When she first started she was the newbie, she didn't know anybody, so she was really quiet and shy," Buob said. "She really didn't use her voice a whole lot. But then she had to get up and speak at the podium in front of a room full of women, so that kind of eliminated some fear.
"She became a pro. It became easier for her to approach these professional adults. This year she's a lot more talkative and active and involved in the program than she was last year. It boosted her confidence."
Hested recognized the difference when Quinn convinced the group to add herbal tea to its products this year. The group also will sell chocolates, designer scarves and note cards decorated with their own photos.
"Quinn is a very artistic person and she helped us a lot last year with her art," Hested said. "This year she's much more involved in the decision making and understanding the business aspect. She really likes the tea, which is pretty sophisticated for a seventh grader. The girls got to taste it and it scored well on the product surveys."
From her perspective, Quinn, 12, said the experience has turned out to be everything her mother anticipated.
"It's a big personality booster," she said. "You can be yourself and nobody will judge you. Plus, I got to know girls from all over Madison.
"Normally girls wouldn't experience what we're getting to do. We get to see how women react to selling. I didn't know much about it when I started. My mom said it was a really cool thing so I joined and it was really fun."