Youth Businesses Step Into the Spotlight

Sascha Raiyn

The Mackinac Center and Junior Achievement are partnering to host the Children’s Business Fair at the Detroit Historical Museum. But those aren’t the only youth-focused business events this month and they aren’t the only organizations that think kids are ready to take on the business world.

Morgan Lantz’s fifth grade class from Escuela Avancemos in Detroit started a coffee shop in March. The idea was to make money so they could give money to a homeless charity.

Alessandra, one of Lantz’s students, said the business is an example of social entrepreneurism, when a business gives back to the community. 

The students sell coffee to parents each morning before school starts and a couple of afternoons each week. But it became clear to them pretty quickly they needed to make a change.

So, if we wanted to accomplish our idea about helping the homeless in the homeless shelter, we knew we had to add something to the business – something that would catch – that would make a profit – that would attract people to the business,” said Juan, another student in Lantz’s class. “So, when we thought of smoothies. We thought kids like smoothies.”

The class now sells bags of coffee for $10, cups of coffee for $1 and smoothies for $2. And they’re earning about a hundred dollars an hour at this point.

Ms. Lantz’s students also have their own businesses that will participate in the Children’s Business Fair. They will sell lava lamps, candy apples, photography, ice cream, smoothies, coffee and slime.

Fourteen year old Zeena Nasiri and twelve year old Meena Nasiri from Rochester will bring their business – EenaArts – to the fair. They make and sell jewelry, cards, scarves and other creations. They’ve been doing it for a while and have recently started selling in stores. 

Sascha Raiyn

We just started realizing that we were actually selling a lot,” Zeena said. “At first it was kind of just a causal thing and then it got more serious. And now I think we’re running it like an actual business.”

There’s something really charming about children doing business – something cute. And the sisters say that can be really good for sales – especially to adults. But Meena said there’s a flip-side to that

You never get feedback and things to make your company improve,” Meena said. “They don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything. So, they never tell you ‘oh, this is okay’ or ‘you should fix this’ or anything.”

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Fifteen year old Zwena Gray has been in business for almost 5 years.

I’m a CEO and kidpreneur,” Gray said. “I own a business called Ztring. I’ve owned it since 4th grade. And what I do is I make jewelry, tutus and accessories…dresses – everything like that. I also teach web development classes and make creative platforms for young people in the community by hosting events and promoting other events that youth entrepreneurs like myself can sign up for.”

One of those events is the Youth Biz Fair she is hosting this month at Northwestern High School in Detroit.

And that’s not all…

Startup Week Detroit is hosting a week of events to encourage and support kids in or getting into business. It ends with a pitch competition that can earn some young entrepreneurs the training, support and resources they need to build their empire.

Image credit: Sascha Raiyn

About the Author

Sascha Raiyn

Reporter & Producer

Native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.   Follow @raiyn

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