Not often do eighth-graders write a book, and if they do, it’s less likely they’ll get paid for it. But the former eighth graders in Nick Noland’s honors English class at Manitou Middle School did just that.
A business plan started by parent and newspaperman John Weiss ended with the Manitou kids, now ninth-graders, netting $77 each for writing a book.
The students featured 30 Manitou businesses in the book “It’s Manitou’s Business!” Weiss and Noland recently distributed the proceeds to the students. Volunteer Natalie Johnson of Black Cat Books took care of the book’s distribution and sales. The group printed 250 books and sold all but 80, Johnson said.
At the distribution event, Weiss showed the students how a similar project could make more money in a larger community.
“If we can sell 200 books here, they can sell 10,000 books in Denver,” which would net $130,000 for the authors, Weiss said. “You went into this as entrepreneurs. Part of it is you get paid in money.”
“Your ideas and your work do have value,” Noland said.
The project got started over s’mores on the eighth-grade camping trip. Weiss “casually” mentioned a friend’s project in which students provided the “back story of local businesses,” Weiss said in the book’s intro. “I said if he was interested in such a project, I would be delighted to be his ally.”
Weiss called his effort the 1 percent “inspiration,” and attributed the 99 percent “perspiration” to Noland. Noland and the students dedicated the book to Weiss.
Through the students’ research, “they have observed and absorbed the incredible entrepreneurial spirit that makes our city unlike any other,” Noland said in the book’s introduction. “In turn, these young adults have experienced what it feels like when a community takes them seriously.”
The students chose the businesses they would feature, they conducted the interviews, they photographed the businesses and wrote the stories, which contain personal experiences, aromas, anecdotes, detailed descriptions and more. Some contain information not widely known.
“When you walk into The Spice of Life, you are greeted by a rush of warm air as the smell of cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper and even more exotic fragrances exhilarate your senses,” wrote student Cassidy Arndt, of the business at 727 Manitou Ave.
Student Kaylin Cole wrote about a dream Mike Milar had prior to his buying the Keg Lounge, 730 Manitou Ave.
“My eyes glanced around the elegant waiting room, from the shining chandelier, to the old paintings on the wall, to the grand staircase and into hallways leading into sophisticated dining rooms,” wrote student Katy Grief about the Briarhurst Manor, 404 Manitou Ave.
“A small blob of molten sand” became pieces of glittery, colorful glass art, wrote Winnie Henline of The Glassblowers of Manitou Springs, 4 Canon Ave. Henline told the story about how the business almost burned when the glass oven malfunctioned.
“The only thing that protected her store was a glass door she had installed recently,” Henline wrote. “It’s ironic how a bit of glass saved her glass business.”
Student Marley Kaiser learned about the nonprofit Business of Art Center, which offers art exhibition galleries, art studios “and even Salsa classes,” Kaiser wrote.
More than 20 years ago, Farley Kaminer ran out of gas in Manitou while traveling cross-country, and she and her traveling partner decided to stay. She got a job as a waitress at Adam’s Mountain Cafe; that was three owners and 27 years ago, wrote student Jared Keul. Keul explained how the waitress financed the business by having the previous owner carry the note.
“The interviews were really fun,” said student Andrea Edwards at the gathering where proceeds were given (she wrote about how Marika’s Coffee House got its name).
“I liked talking to the businesses,” said Kaiser.
Student Carli Nanfito wrote about Osburn’s Gift Shop, saying, “The business was robbed. I learned how tough that was to get that money back, because it’s a tourist shop.”
Noland’s next venture involves the Internet, he said.
“Instead of a book, it will be an online presence of nonprofit organizations related to Manitou and El Paso County.”