It was a rainy Saturday when I hit the Farmer’s Market for kid’s vending day. I spoke to several vendors, aged 7-17, who were damp but in good spirits as they showcased their products. They taught me about slime, wire-wrap jewelry, collage, crochet, sewing and even the recommended growing practices of succulents. What struck me was the focus and determination of these entrepreneurs. They were fast and had sharp, smart minds keen to evaluate the market. Combined, they could easily teach BIZ 101 (and probably 102) at Western.
Financially, these kids have it handled. Many have investors in the form of parents, grandparents and friends who sometimes ask for interest-free repayment ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent until paid in full.
One of the vendors, Liana Kelly, may really be onto something. When asked about her seed money, she explained that she and her partner, Abee Tolman, have an investor, Ambur Tolman, who Kelly explains is “really chill,” adding that this is a good trait to look for when starting out.
Reinvestment dominates the spending budgets. All have plans and ideas for further expansion of product lines, inventory build-out and business development in the form of new displays, developing or expanding an online presence, and even production machinery. All advise that 25 percent (or more) of gross should go to reinvestment. Henry Gwozdz, for example, has his eye on a discontinued sewing machine, the Bernina 830, which he first learned to use at Social Fabric but which he says will help with his production.
A few had plans for their own cut, but all were satisfied with 25 percent (or less) of the gross profit going to their personal goals such as college or fun money. Julia Quinn and partner Audrey Quinn want to raise money for a roundabout they’d like to see installed on Old Fairhaven Parkway. Not only is this important to them personally but as a business, connecting to something larger than yourself makes it easy to talk to people. Nolan Burghart would probably agree as he was there selling succulents for his 4H club.
When asked about business, they all had ready answers. No one had to think or hesitate. It was as if they’d been holding onto these ideas and were ready to teach. They take their work seriously even though, as Marcella Byers pointed out, “It should be fun. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”
These kids manage to merge fun with professionalism at every turn. And lest you think they don’t know what professionalism is, Liana Kelly had an immediate reply, explaining that it means showing up on time, being prepared and being tidy with your displays.
Pepper Berry says this work is, “more of an obsession.” She just has to do it. That seems important in a world where sales aren’t guaranteed. This echoed Mercedes Byers who says she had the idea to make slime with her sister because she really just wanted to make slime, a lot of slime, all the time. She knew that if they sold it, they’d have the money and the excuse to make more.
Some things are more fun with friends and several of the booths were joint ventures. Yet all of these teams explained they had careful agreements in place to prevent friction. They said if people could just agree and share, it would work out. Ami Purdue said that if they couldn’t decide what to spend their earnings on, they could spend it together doing something fun or buying things from the other kids.
Other advice included an important gem from Berry who observed that displays are often too low for the adults to see clearly. It was wise to raise the display to their level to prevent them from having to stoop. Burghart also said displays were important, and stressed the value of being outgoing and engaging to every approaching person, something many of the vendors repeated throughout the interviews.
On pricing, Jeanett Aamot says that prices need to be fair. Do market research, ask around and look at what others are doing to be sure your prices are in line with theirs. Ami Purdue and Jessa Bates say that neatness counts and that it’s especially valuable to repurpose and recycle materials wherever possible.
There were many lessons shared, including these great tips:
- Have fun with it
- Don’t yell
- Be creative
- Think about what people want from you, not just what you want to do
- Pay people back who invest in you
- Engage with people
- Be neat and careful
- Show up on time and come prepared
- Reinvest part of your profits back into your community
- Ask for help (from people who are chill)
- Have a goal but focus on the moment
- Recycle and repurpose
Another thing came up every time, said with reverberations of humility and awe – gratitude. Thank you mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, friend, sibling, helper, customer, supporter – thank you. Every one of these kids were quick to say that others had invested time, knowledge and money in their success. And they were all – every single one – openly grateful. Clearly, their lessons don’t stop at BIZ 101.