Nine-year-old Lauryn Hill knows a thing or two about fashion.
Mix and match, buy versatile garments, embrace color. She’s even been blogging about fashion for a year.
On Saturday, Lauryn had the chance to merge her passion and sensibilities with commerce. The result: $2 flip-flops decorated with pompoms and tassels.
Lauryn was one of about 40 Triangle youth who tried their hands at running a small business over the weekend. They gathered in North Hills Mall Commons to do one of the most American endeavors: selling their products for profits. They peddled everything from brownies to bracelets, bubblegum machines to bedazzled barrettes. All with this hope: walking away with more money than they spent.
“I’ve been hoping to open up a savings account,” said Lauryn. “Maybe I’ll make enough today to make that happen.”
The fair’s concept has its roots in Austin, Texas, where a local business expert and his wife wanted to create an event where young people could hone their skills at selling products of their own making. Since 2007, the concept has spread to several other states.
The John William Pope Foundation sponsored The Raleigh Children’s Business Fair, the first event of its kind in the city. Local business leaders judged the booths and awarded prizes to the best vendors.
They can sell to strangers in a safe environment and not have the worry of going broke.
Kayla Nguyen, coordinator of The Raleigh Children’s Business Fair
Kayla Nguyen, coordinator of the event for the foundation, said the hope for the event is quite simple: Let youth try running a business in an environment that’s safe and encouraging.
“This event lets them learn these skills while taking away some of the risk that makes kids not able to try this,” Nguyen said. “They can sell to strangers in a safe environment and not have the worry of going broke.”
Ari and Analise Etin pulled out all the stops for their booth. The 9-year-old and 6-year-old brother and sister decided diversifying would be their best bet for profitability. They mixed lemonade and brewed coffee. Analise painted paper birdhouses that Ari built; they constructed colorful masks, too. To top it off, they set up a carpet with Legos and bean bags to lure customers to their booth. And, if that weren’t enough, Ari stepped into the walkway to invite people to check out their wares.
“My social skills aren’t always the best, so I’m working on that today. It’s part of it,” Ari said.
Lilli Kirby, 12, said she was worried about being too shy to sell fruit kabobs to strangers. But, on Saturday, she grinned widely as customers stopped to admire her assortment of melons on skewers. She said she had always wanted to open a fruit stand, a healthy alternative to the baked goods and sugary beverages she has seen kids in her neighborhood sell.
But, if the health advantage weren’t enough to draw customers, Lilli said she was counting on a secret weapon: Honey, her business partner and the Kirby family’s golden retriever.
“Everyone always wants to come say hello to Honey,” Lilli said.
Locke: 919-829-8927 or @MandyLockeNews