News: CJ Exclusives

Children’s Business Fair encourages entrepreneurship

Raleigh to host Sept. 10 event, joining 14 other U.S. cities that have shown similar support for aspiring young business owners

Raleigh Children's Business Fair, scheduled for September 10 at 2:30 p.m. in North Hills, will see 64 young entrepreneurs market their products and compete for cash prizes. (Photo courtesy of Acton Children's Business Fairs)
Raleigh Children's Business Fair, scheduled for September 10 at 2:30 p.m. in North Hills, will see 64 young entrepreneurs market their products and compete for cash prizes. (Photo courtesy of Acton Children's Business Fairs)

A group of aspiring entrepreneurs will open for business Sept. 10 in The Commons area at Raleigh’s North Hills mall. But unlike most enterprise owners, these capitalists aren’t yet old enough to drive, vote, or take out a bank loan.

The Raleigh Children’s Business Fair, sponsored by the John William Pope Foundation and the John Locke Foundation, anticipates approximately 64 young people between the ages of six and 14 will present their business ideas to the public. The event is part of Acton Children’s Business Fairs, a national network funded by Acton Academy and The Acton School of Business that is dedicated to educating children about the value of hard work and entrepreneurship.

Participants include members of the Boy Scouts of America and 4-H clubs, as well as homeschool students and children who are involved in Junior Achievement groups, said the Pope Foundation’s Kayla Nguyen, the fair’s organizer.

Kids will display their business plans across 44 different booths, and will provide an explanation of how they plan to fund, manufacture, and market their products, Nguyen added. In addition to allowing children to show-off ideas and sell goods to customers, the fair will include a competition during which judges will award prizes for best presentation, best customer service, best original idea, and best business potential. Acton, which helps with some planning aspects of the event, will provide prizes ranging from $50 to $80 per category.

“Kids are going to walk away with money in addition to the profit they make that day,” Nguyen said. “It’s a great learning opportunity.”

The kids’ business ideas are widely varied, with some proposals going far beyond lemonade or cookie stands, Nguyen added.

“One person is making cupcakes, which is adorable,” she said. “Some people are selling bike reflectors. One girl even said she coded a bunch of games and is bringing an iPad and is letting people play them.”

The fair is a great opportunity for kids to learn the principles of good business, and to display their ideas in ways that are appropriate for their age group, said Lindsay Hollandsworth, director of communications for the Pope Foundation. It’s also a chance for the Raleigh-based grant organization to take a more active role in promoting educational programs across the state, she added.

“We’ll in a way be imparting a gift to the educational community, giving them a tool that we can use to teach people and bring people in,” Hollandsworth said. “It’s competitive in a good way. It’s a safe selling environment for kids. There are parental controls, and there are some limitations to it. It’s beneficial for everybody all around.”

Raleigh is one of 14 cities that have joined the Acton network to host a business fair for children, and the list is continuing to grow, with several other cities anticipated to join the effort in the coming year. The network, which calls itself the largest entrepreneurship event for kids in North America, was started in 2006 by Jeff Sandefer, founder of the Austin-based Acton School of Business. Sandefer, who launched his first business when he was just 16, says he designed the program to encourage ambition and creativity among driven young students.

Both Nguyen and Hollandsworth would like to see that vision catch on in Raleigh, and are optimistic that others — young and old — will be motivated to participate in future business fairs.

“We’re hoping to get as many people from the community as possible to come out and shop at the fair and support the young talent in the area,” Nguyen concluded. “We want every child to experience the joy of working hard and making a profit.”

The event will begin on September 10 at 2:30 p.m. in The Commons at North Hills. For more details, click here.