A weekly farmers market at the Crossroads shopping center in Bellevue, Wash., attracted a bunch of extra vendors on Tuesday as several dozen young entrepreneurs showcased their offerings at a children’s business fair.
Squeezed in among the usual booths featuring fruits and vegetables, snow cones and wood fired pizza were kids ages 5 to 18 selling everything from pet supplies and jewelry to paintings, photographs, beauty products, toys and more merchandise they crafted themselves. Some of the booths simply offered games as an attraction and others peddled services such as dog walking.
The fair has been put on in numerous cities across the country and is the creation of Acton, which runs Academy schools and an MBA program. Chirag Vedullapalli, a 16-year-old junior at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash., helped to organize the Crossroads version through an organization he founded called Creative Children for Charity.
On Tuesday, Vedullapalli and a number of teen volunteers and others worked the parking lot full of tents where the fair was set up. They included Sophia Ojeda, Toby Hatch, Tyler Thompson, Grace Swan, Tatum Dalgleish, Riordan Roche and Chaitra Vedullapalli. While he has his own appreciation for nonprofit work, Vedullapalli said lots of kids just want to start a business and “make a lot of money.”
“I’m so excited for this event,” said Vedullapalli, whose entrepreneurial parents run a company called Meylah, which helps small businesses get online. “It’s a really cool opportunity and platform for kids, to take their hobbies and interests and see if it’s a viable business idea.”
Matt Williams, the founder and CEO of Pro.com, who was previously CEO at Digg and a manager at Amazon, knows a thing or two about running a business. So, his three kids were all taking part in the fair.
“All of the kids have created their own little businesses in the past, trying to sell different things,” Williams said. “I was a kid entrepreneur at age 6, 7 and 8, creating businesses in our home. I created a bank, except my bank didn’t pay you interest, it charged you interest for holding your money. Different kind of bank!
Williams said it was especially fun to see each of his kids create profit and loss statements by adding what they spent on materials and what they would have to sell into spreadsheets.
The fair, which was also a competition, was running all afternoon on Tuesday and would feature awards at the end of the day, including best pitch, best product, best booth presentation and a people’s choice award — voted on by customers who shopped the fair.
Check out a sampling of some of the kids GeekWire met and the businesses we heard about:
Raj and Veer Khandpur, 7-year-old twin brothers, were selling small boxes of candy made to look like sushi. They had sashimi candy and spider rolls alongside California and Philly rolls, which were both popular items on Tuesday.
“We love candy and we love sushi, so we combined them to make candy sushi,” Raj. said
Aurora Evanoff, 11, a sixth grader at Islander Middle School on Mercer Island, was running Aurora’s Pet Shop, where she was selling handmade cat and dog toys and treats as well as monogrammed food and water bowls.
“My pet shop only sells reusable, recyclable or compostable items and they are meant to keep your pet happy and healthy for a long time,” said Aurora, who was giving 10 percent of her proceeds to the Humane Society of Seattle. “All of them are pet tested and pet approved.”
She should know — she has a cat, dog, fish and soon a parakeet at home.
Sabina Gomez is a 14-year-old home-schooled ninth grader from Mount Vernon, Wash., and she stood before a table of skin care products
“They’re made from all-organic food-grade material, which is really nice, because the things I use are coconut oil, bees wax and cocoa butter and the cool thing is those things helps protect your skin, improve skin tone and elasticity. They also help with the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal thing.”
She was offering four scents in small tins for $8 each: Cocoa, Relax & Dream, Rosemary & Peppermint, and Lavendar.
Isaac Hsu is a sixth grader at Rose Hill Middle School in Redmond, Wash. At 11 years old, he says he’s been an artist for about a year, and he was offering his work under the name Panda.
His spray paint and stencil designs featured, among other things, panda bears (his favorite), the Space Needle, an octopus and more.
Cassia Williams, 12, is a seventh grader at Lakeside School in Seattle and got into photography when she was about 9-years-old and has been taking pictures ever since. She takes most of her photos on a Canon Rebel T5, and on Tuesday she stood among images large and small featuring everything from sunsets and Seattle’s waterfront to the Space Needle and close-ups of flowers.
Last week she traveled to Oregon to see the solar eclipse, and she had dramatic photos to prove it.
“I took one of them when it was in totality and the other one I took with a filter that my dad made out of a piece of cardboard and sock,” Cassia said.
Mareya Williams is 6 years old and headed to first grade.
“I make bird treat cookies and slime and treasure hunt in a jar,” said the multi-faceted entrepreneur, who’d clearly made the most use of a bag of bird seed among those participating in the event.
Kellan Williams, 9, was selling guesses. He had jars full of candy and participants were welcome to try to put a number on jelly beans for a chance to win the jar — or a giant stuffed bear. Everyone who played was also allowed to spin a wheel which offered consolation prizes, such as a bottle of water, which was not a bad deal on a hot day in the middle of a parking lot.
“It’s really fun and I get to have money,” Kellan said about why he liked running his own business.
Swaraag Sistla, 9, and his brother Swadesh Sistla, 12, go to Open Window School in Bellevue and Ishan Vig, 14, attends Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. The three boys were decked out in white shirts and red bow ties to attract customers to their booth with a good cause.
“We’re taking products made by impoverished women living in Guatemala and selling them in the U.S.,” Swadesh said, pointing to water bottle holders and coin purses knitted together using pull tabs off of aluminum cans. “All of the proceeds are going to Seattle Children’s Hospital. So, we’re both helping the locals in Seattle and we’re helping the people in Guatemala who made these.”
Swadesh, who was very well versed in the efforts being made by Seattle Children’s to combat pediatric cancer, said, “We thought we were supporting the right causes” and added that their brand of social entrepreneurish went beyond making pocket money, as they were also accepting any and all donations for Hurricane Harvey relief.
Swaraag said that being a young entrepreneur “was a good start to build a foundation upon for years to come.”
Darbi West, an 11-year-old sixth grader, traveled from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to take part in the fair. Dressed in a white lab coat, Darbi was selling organic lip balm that she said keeps lips healthy and hydrated all day.
“I use hemp oil, shea butter and bees wax and then essential oils,” Darbi said, adding that the peppermint flavor was selling best and that she has plans to make lotion.
She gets her ingredients off Amazon — a company that she said she’d like her business to be as big as someday.
Business partners Izzie Fatland and Claire King are both 12-year-old seventh graders at Tyee Middle School in Bellevue and they run Eclecticism Squared. They were selling jewelry, stationery, heating pads and decorative scrolls.
“It’s fun to have somebody to work together with and share ideas with and figure out the best way to do things,” Claire said. “And we can help each other if we get stressed out and we don’t have enough time to finish.”