The Children’s Business Fair offers area youth the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship at an early age.
Is there an age limit on entrepreneurship?
For those in Jefferson City, the answer is no. The Acton Children’s Business Fair, currently planning its third event in Jefferson City, allows kids ages five to 17 to showcase their entrepreneurial spirit by presenting viable brands and businesses and selling to real customers at the event.
Robin Nicole Atkins, event organizer, says that the fair collaborates with the national Acton Children’s Business Fair group, which helps people in cities around the U.S. organize their own events. “My mom discovered them and thought it was a great idea to teach children in Jefferson City about entrepreneurship,” says Robin. “She’s always been involved in helping children. After she moved to Hawaii to be a school counselor, I continued to organize the event.”
As a singer-songwriter and co-owner of Delicious Mobile Gourmet, Robin is no stranger to entrepreneurship herself. Delicious Mobile Gourmet has been a sponsor and provided food at each event to show the young business owners that other entrepreneurs in the area are there to support them.
“I feel like it’s an asset to them and to the community just to show children they have so many possibilities in how they can live their lives,” says Robin. “It also allows them to practice customer service skills and learn responsibility, bookkeeping, and inventory. I feel like it’s very empowering for people to explore entrepreneurship to see what’s feasible. It’s a learning experience. It might not be as hard as they think it is if they enjoy what they do.”
Karis Valentine is one of the young entrepreneurs who participated in the most recent Jefferson City Children’s Business Fair in April 2019. Her business, KarisElle Creations, received the award for best business concept.
“This award was nice because my business feels right for me in this season of life,” says Karis. “My parents encourage me to pay attention to the things I enjoy and create from that place. I really enjoy T-shirts as well as lots of color. From there, my business idea was born.”
Karis creates soft jewelry and accessories for children and adults from “up-cycled” T-shirts and fabric. “I create fringe and hand-knitted necklaces, bracelets, and hair bows in lots of pretty colors. I’ve always been into making jewelry, and I’d been thinking for a while about what I could do to earn money. When I heard about the Jefferson City Children’s Business Fair, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I worked with my mom to come up with a product idea and was able to launch KarisElle Creations at the fair.”
Karis adds that she was nervous and excited at the same time to present her business. “I worked hard to prepare for the fair but didn’t know how things would go. It felt good to be surrounded by other kids my age,” she says. “I loved seeing people light up when they interacted with my products. Some couldn’t believe I actually use my fingers to knit one of the necklace styles. With each sale, I felt like my hard work was being rewarded.”
The experience let Karis learn a lot about herself and where she could improve her business. The event’s “secret shoppers” provided valuable feedback on all aspects of the participants’ business concepts.
“I believe the business fair was a great launching pad for me — I will never forget being offered an opportunity to be a vendor at the MO Swag shop,” Karis says. “This experience was also meaningful to me because it has caused the bond I have with my mother to grow. She and I have totally different personalities, and that can make communication difficult sometimes. We talk about a lot and are learning so much about each other while we’re talking about business. We hope to encourage other mothers and daughters in the future.”
Even as she’s planning for the future, Karis is also enjoying the present. “I love being an entrepreneur because I get to create pretty things, connect with people, and earn money,” she says. “I like being able to enjoy my childhood while gaining skills that will benefit me throughout life. I’ve learned that I like working on a team, but I also like to lead.”
Robin would like to host classes next year to talk about the different aspects of entrepreneurship with young business leaders. If you are an entrepreneur or small business leader who might be interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.