Pilar Fabregas faced a bunch of eager employees waiting for their paychecks. Customers were waiting, and her saleswoman and production manager were both on break.
It could have been worse.
"The hardest thing is when your accountant is gone, and you have be the accountant," Pilar, 10, said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Scottsdale’s Copper Ridge Elementary School fifth-graders attended "Exchange City," where they managed their own town complete with commerce, public safety and a banking system.
The nonprofit organization Junior Achievement runs the program in Tempe, which reaches more than 10,000 Arizona schoolchildren each year, said Libby Furry, an "Exchange City" manager.
"It started about 25 years ago in Kansas City when a group of businesspeople saw a need for kids to be learning more about economics," Furry said. "We train the teachers and then they go into the classroom and teach basic economic concepts like supply and demand, opportunity costs and those sorts of things."
Copper Ridge students studied basic economics for six weeks and interviewed for jobs such as banker, judge, business owner and police officer.
They worked with teammates to develop business and advertising plans, and they applied for small business loans, produced goods and services and sold and paid off their loans at the end of the day.
Students received several paychecks, which they either deposited in the bank, used to pay fines and taxes or spent on goods — including popcorn or crafts.
Each business had an accountant, who managed the funds on a computerbased program that kept track of all the debits and credits.
At the Nature Shop, which Pilar managed, students created pine cone people and bracelets to sell.
As their time dwindled, they decided to lower the prices on some items, for a faster sell.
"It’s the most similar thing to real life that I’ve learned," Pilar said.
Sierra Jacoby, 11, appreciated the real-life lessons, too.
"I learned how to write checks and how to deposit money," she said.
Parent volunteers such as Jeannie Joseph manned each station.
"At the end of the day, each child goes home with a balance sheet that says what they spent and earned," she said.
"Sometimes the child might have a negative balance, so the teacher will talk about that. I think this would be great even for high-schoolers."