By Kristen Grau
Emily Bernstein’s friend cried during a fire drill last school year. She, like many other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, struggled with traumatic flashbacks during those drills, since they went off twice right before the Feb. 14 tragedy.
Bernstein’s friend was lent a bottle of essential oils, and she felt the effect instantly. She stopped crying. She talked about this experience with Bernstein, who then told her entrepreneurship class. For six weeks, the class had been debating which product they should sell. Bernstein gave them their answer.
After that, the class dedicated the school year to selling essential oils. Their company, called Pure Serenity, created bracelets that diffuse lavender and eucalyptus. Those oils are known for their stress-relieving qualities, and they helped the community as they did Bernstein’s friend.
“We haven’t run any scientific study [on the oils] but people are coming back over and over again,” says Mitchell Albert, who taught the class. “One lady ran a yoga class, and she bought 30 so she could give it to everybody in her class, because she liked the benefits of it. So it’s been very beneficial to the students and faculty.”
The students running the company wanted to do something for the community, not just their school. So they decided to give back 10 percent of their profits to Parkland Cares — a total of $1,000 so far.
“As our product helped the community, we wanted to further give back,” sas Lexi Ofstein, a student in the class and president of the company. She continues…
We looked into the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), but we decided it was more beneficial for us to do a local community one. We were really happy to work with them and give back to them after they came into our classroom and told us everything they do and all the organizations they give back to and we were really happy with our decision.
It was hard to keep track of how many bracelets they sold in the company’s six-month run. They worked hard to build different distribution channels: on campus, on Amazon, during a Panthers game, and eventually, a market in Coral Springs called Tunie’s.
They showed off their hard work on the local and national levels through Junior Achievement (JA), a nonprofit organization that hosts student-run business competitions nationwide.
Pure Serenity won South Florida JA Student Company of the Year. They swept every category in the South Florida competition.
Their impressive performance earned them a spot at JA’s national competition, the JA National Student Leadership Summit. Out of the 750 student-run businesses across the country in the JA program, only 15 are invited to the Washington, D.C. summit.
They came in second.
“It was really shocking, we were all so happy,” Ofstein says. “We worked so hard, but seeing all the other competition there, we knew everybody worked as hard as us. When they picked our name as second, we all started crying.”
It was the first time, according to Ofstein, MSD had ever placed in the top three nationally.
What customers say about Pure Serenity
Albert, who’s taught at MSD for six years, says everybody at the school was “impacted to different degrees” by the shooting — even the freshmen. He’s proud that his students were able to create a product that everybody at the school benefited from…
One of the biggest issues that we’re seeing with the people who were at Stoneman Douglas last year is that we’re dealing with mental health issues. They have a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of depression. We understood everybody in the community was affected in some way. Everybody knows someone who’s at Stoneman Douglas. Everybody has a student, a daughter or son who was at Stoneman Douglas.
Teachers loved the product as much as students did. Albert said more than half-dozen faculty members stopped by his classroom asking to buy one.
One customer in particular stands out to Ofstein, someone she’s never even met.
“We’ve gotten so much positive feedback of people just telling us stories about situations that it’s helped them through,” she says. “One of my favorites was a Facebook message from this woman whose sister died and she was talking all about the bracelet and how it helped her and had no idea of the Douglas name behind it. She was just somebody who bought it off Amazon and reached out to us after.”
Pure Serenity donated more than $1,000 to Parkland Cares. And now that the JA program has ended and Pure Serenity can technically no longer profit, the remaining sales from Amazon and Tunie’s will all go toward Parkland Cares.
Albert says Pure Serenity was one of the most successful student companies he’s advised. So next year, for the first time, he’ll ask his entrepreneurship students if they want to continue Pure Serenity instead of building something from scratch.
“People aren’t buying it because we’re Stoneman Douglas kids,” Ofstein says, “but because it was a really amazing product that they loved.”
Click here to purchase a bracelet on Amazon. Since the JA program ended, all of the proceeds go toward Parkland Cares.