By Janna M. Hall | CEO, Leap Innovative Group
On Saturday, March 10, hundreds of families gathered at the Science Museum of Virginia with cash in hand, ready to support children’s entrepreneurship. Around 40 young business owners gathered, eager to showcase their ideas and talents at Richmond’s first ever Children’s Business Fair. The fair was not only the opportunity for young boys and girls to earn money, but it also allowed our youngest CEOs to sell themselves to the public, something we’re usually not tasked with until we’re well into adulthood.
CJ Walker, Founder of RVA Metro Teens, has entrepreneurship running through her veins, and after learning about the Acton School of Business’ Children’s Business Fair, knew she had to launch a chapter here in Richmond.
“Richmond is such a business-friendly city, so why didn’t we have one here?” Walker asked herself. “The Acton School of Business started in 2007 with only seven entrepreneurs and 25 attendees, and they’ve expanded to over 1500 attendees. I knew we had to bring something like this to Richmond.”
Though in its first year, Walker’s turnout exceeded expectations. She initially anticipated 20 small businesses, but on March 10, the amount of young entrepreneurs doubled. Businesses ranged from mailbox painting services to baked goods, and meditation tools to STEM education. Though they were children, inexperienced they were not; each owner had their elevator pitch ready and effectively communicated everything from business functions to the inspiration behind launching.
Skye Bird, age 9, owns Skye Bird’s Mindful Corner, which encourages children to slow down, take deep breaths, and center their energy when mad or sad. Her “Mindful Bottles” are filled with colorful trinkets and calm you down as you tilt it back and forth. She also offers hand-painted Affirmation Stones covered with positive affirmations, and Affirmation Cards, which provide a positive statement for each day of the week.
“My mom teaches mindfulness at VCU, and it got me into positive thinking,” explained Skye. “It’s helped me out and calmed me down a lot.”
This type of transformation is why she believes this business is important, and what she hopes to help other children with as she grows her brand.
“When you go into business, it shouldn’t be about the money,” she said. “It should be about making people feel better.”
While Skye Bird focused on making people feel good on the inside, one of the youngest entrepreneurs was all about making people look good on the outside.
Ashton Smith was only four years old when she started Pearl Makeover, a traveling makeup service that helps young girls feel pretty and playful with the magic of makeup. Now six, Ashton enjoys taking her bedazzled suitcase with her wherever she goes, advertising the skills she’s built over the past two years.
“I don’t do regular makeup,” said Ashton proudly. “I do stage makeup for pageants, sleepovers, and parties.”
Ashton stood excitedly at her table with her eyeshadow and eyeliner perfectly done, eager to share her talents with the world.
“When I first saw makeup, I got really inspired by it,” she explained. “I love it so much that I want to share it with everyone.”
Another entrepreneur’s mission was two-fold; he was raising money to help fund his BMX bike riding career using the art made with his business, Strings N Things.
“I make homemade Play-Doh, string art, melted crayon art, and painted canvases,” he explained while showcasing a colorful table of crafts. “I’ve been doing it quite a while, but I’ve been making this art since December.”
Each design was unique and intricate, making it hard to pick just one favorite craft. In addition to selling his art, Dallas decided to embark on a business venture because of the life skills business ownership builds.
“It’s important for kids to get into business because it teaches people skills, time management, and you learn how to sell,” explained Dallas. “It also helps you learn about supply and demand, which is really important.”
Asani Ka-Re’s entire business was birthed out of a great demand. With her collection of handmade hair scrunchies, Asani meets the needs of her fellow gymnasts who need scrunchies when practicing and performing and want a special, personalized touch.
“I’m on a gymnastics team and I need my scrunchies when I go to competitions,” she explained. “I learned sewing at a 4-H camp, and my God-mom taught me how to make scrunchies. I did it at school for Market Day, and this is my first time doing it for a public crowd.”
With traditional prints from African countries and bright, bold colors, Asani allows young girls to choose the scrunchies that speak to their personality and style. It’s the ability to express yourself that she believes is most important in life.
“Young people should own a business because you can express yourself and do what you love instead of working another job that you don’t like,” she said.
Another critical part of running a successful business is identifying and meeting a need many customers don’t even realize they have. Amari Clement does just that with her business Mari’s Mailbox Post Painting. What started as an idea to repaint her parents’ mailbox post turned into a business of transforming others’ mailboxes to make them look brand new. Now, she’s running a thriving business that allows customers to choose their color and avoid costly fees of replacing mailbox posts.
“I offer natural paint, black, green, and white,” she said. “I started doing this at the end of the summer, and I had to stop because it got cold, but I’m excited to do more when the weather changes again.”
Amari’s business idea is not only creative, but she’s meeting a need and offering a service that will always be in demand. This is exactly the type of thing you learn later on in life as you explore business opportunities, but Amari thinks it’s important for children to start now.
“It’s important for kids to own a business because you learn everything early, and when you get older you’re already a step ahead.”
This is exactly why CJ Walker bringing this to Richmond is so remarkable. Children as young as six are learning early on what it takes to be successful as they explore passions and develop interpersonal skills. And sure, children look adorable as they pass out business cards and give their elevator pitch, but they’re placing themselves in a league of their own. What took many adults years to learn, they’re getting accustomed to now. And that’s what this is all about.
“Entrepreneurship teaches youth about managing money, responsibility, and how to earn a living on their own,” she explained. “They’ll grow up one day and know that they have options. If they don’t want to work a 9-5, they won’t have to, because they’ve had this experience and know what it takes to make a business work.”
Walker assures us that this is just the beginning for Richmond’s Children’s Business Fair.
“We want to be able to show our kids that you can do anything that you put your mind into. With the right support and guidance, they can conquer the world.”
Photo Credit Janna Hall