Kids churning out cash

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Rachel Faulkner writes, What do you do to earn money? Maybe you babysit your neighbor or mow lawns for your dad.

What do you do to earn money? Maybe you babysit your neighbor or mow lawns for your dad. Or, if you are particularly creative, you start your own mini business.The Young Americans Center for Financial Education puts on a “business expo.” for children like that every year. Children ages 6-21 can simply submit their product, and if they are selected, they are invited to sell it at a real marketplace. On December 6, I attended the Christmas shopping rush, hoping to pick up a couple gifts for family members from the 75 booths scattered throughout the building. The Young Entrepreneurs I found were anywhere from ages 6 to 19, all selling their own unique products. The gifts I saw could be simple, such as decorated pizza boxes to store memories like the ones Longmont siblings Kira and Connor made. Then again, they could be bizarrely unique, such as the personalized Letters from Santa that 13-year-old Preston sold. Where did he get that idea? “My mom once tried to write me a letter from Santa, and it didn’t turn out so well,” he admitted. Hopefully Preston has enough contacts up at the North Pole to make his letters more convincing. Other one-of-a-kind trinkets included button bouquets and water balloon launchers. My personal favorites were aspen trunks that had been hollowed on the inside to hold candles, made by Parker,11, of Littleton, and honey made by the entrepreneur’s own bees Many children sold beaded jewelry. One such jeweler, Jayda, age 10, said that she started her business to cater specifically to people with sensitive skin. “My ears are sensitive to anything that’s not sterling silver,” the bubbly business owner said, “so I decided to make my own jewelry to protect them.” The prices of these stocking-stuffers were unbeatable. For penny-pinchers, simple bracelets could be bought for only 25 cents. Most of the items were around $5, with the most expensive being a set of 6 fine stainless steel “pot-stirrers”, an ingenious idea by Madison of Yuma, sold for $100. I found that I could buy gifts for everyone in my family, without breaking into emergency cash. The workshop lasted from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., meaning that both busy entrepreneurs and ecstatic shoppers grew hungry during the day. For those that couldn’t leave to go pick up lunch, several children sold homemade lunches instead. Perhaps the most popular was the booth run by two sisters, Chloe and Kimberly. Dressed in medieval gowns, these two called their booth “King Arthur’s Food Court”, where they sold nachos and other snacks. Of course, no gift can be complete without a personal, handmade card to go along with it. However, some people find that it is way too hard to make cards for the whole family in the little free time they have. So to save consumers that time, there were hundreds of personalized greeting cards for sale. Dillon, 14, and Ilana, 11, were selling not only packs of greeting cards but t-shirts with their artistic designs on them, while Alec, 12, and Ellie, 9, sold cards with brightly colored paper and pressed leaves on them. These were available for only 50 cents!Many of the children selling their goods had worked at this fair before. Elizabeth and Katherine of Denver were last year’s winners in their category with their brilliant food for American Girl Dolls. “American Girl doll food is too expensive,” says Katherine, holding up a tray of her own doll cakes. Maddie, 12, sold for her second straight year her Giggles Spa Baskets, and Libby, age 17, is going on her 5 th year of selling jewelry!With money that they earn, these children could likely buy a hundred Beanie Babies, but what good is that for the creative? Instead, many kids say that they’re saving up for that perfect gift, like spending money for a European vacation or an iPod. A couple thoughtful business owners said that instead of saving or splurging, they would donate their money to charity. Mostly, these were percentages, such as 10% of total earnings to go to Unicef, or half of the money to go to Rafiki, an African-based charity. One booth selling quality paperclip jewelry is giving their whole profit to the Holocaust Awareness Fund. The inspiration for this idea came from the documentary “Paperclip”, which talks about raising money through paperclip jewelry in memory of all those who died in World War II. Allison, age 15, runs the booth with her brother Steven. “Our grandfather is a Holocaust survivor,” she shares. This generous gift of giving is what Christmas is all about. In the end, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of work I was seeing. It takes a lot to run your own business, but it takes even more to run a business as a child.

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