Young business owners ages 6-16 filled Esther Short Park with colorful and creative booths and stands, showcasing their various talents and merchandise
Jessica Hofer Wilkinson
For Clark County Today
VANCOUVER – Constant, heavy rainfall could not dampen the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of over 150 children from across the region as they operated businesses at Esther Short Park on Saturday (June 4).
Selling handmade or homegrown products to thousands of Farmers Market visitors in their own Junior Market called Lemonade Day, young business owners ages 6-16 filled the park with colorful and creative booths and stands, showcasing their various talents and merchandise.
From original artwork, jewelry, and keychains to dog toys, fire starters, plants, and much more, the young entrepreneurs flexed their ingenuity and sales skills from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in a concerted effort to make a profit.
Together, they earned a whopping $25,000 in revenue.
The event, hosted by the Greater Vancouver Chamber and sponsored chiefly by iQ Credit Union, began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:45 a.m. Vancouver City Council Member Erik Paulsen and State Representative Monica Stonier of the 49th Legislative District participated in the ceremony. They commended the future business owners’ hard work preparing for Lemonade Day. Additional community leaders, financial institutions, business owners, and nonprofit organizations joined the ceremony to support and be part of Vancouver’s first-ever Junior Market.
“It was fun to create stuff and see people wanting to buy it,” said 11-year-old Harrison Adams. Harrison sold potted succulents and homemade bird feeders alongside his brother, Henry, age 9. They met many enthusiastic customers who were thrilled with their products and pricing.
Before the event, the junior CEOs followed a Lemonade Day financial literacy program to develop their understanding of business operations, investments, and goal setting. The program emphasized proper management of profits with the guidelines “save some, spend some, and share some.”
Mason Krause, an 11-year-old outdoorsman who enjoys fishing with his dad, decided to capitalize on his hobbies by creating and selling Fish Emulsion, an organic fish fertilizer for plants. Krause provided clear written and verbal instructions for hopeful gardeners. He also sold hand-carved and wood burned walking sticks and homemade fire starters made of paraffin wax and pine shavings, which sold out. “Today was very rewarding,” said Krause. “I would do it again.”
Acacia Hwang (16), Micah Hwang (13), Jacob Ouellette (14), and Wyatt Howard (13) allowed their hobby to inform their business as well. I.F. Robotics, a new high school community robotics team based out of Vancouver, incorporated robotics into their business plan, selling entertainment alongside plants in 3D-printed pots. Children lined up and waited in the downpouring rain to drive their robot in a popular target-based game.
“Going into this experience, we definitely weren’t prepared for how well it turned out,” said Acacia Hwang. “The night before, Micah told me that he thought even if we sold everything, we wouldn’t make $200. However, we ended up exceeding that goal. It was super amazing!”
I.F. Robotic’s success on Saturday has the group thinking about selling at other places like the Vancouver Flea Market. They said the experience helped them develop their brand, which will aid them in future robotics competitions and other outreach events as they seek to grow their young program.
Similarly, the Washougal Girl Scouts viewed the junior market as an opportunity to earn money for their troop, working to fund a trip to Europe next summer. Buggy Eakin, Madi R., Clairlynne Cothren, and Kaylee Worral spent almost a year preparing inventory for the market and relied on their various skills to create wood, ceramic, and crocheted coasters, and canvas paintings, among other items. Their most popular item was a three-tiered dessert stand built with repurposed plates and candlesticks.
Resourcefulness was a theme that ran through many of the businesses. For example, T-Ray Brazier, 12, used a recent family move to recycle unwanted T-shirts into toys for cats and dogs. He was inspired by his Goldendoodle named Ginger, who helped test his product creation. Brazier braided T-shirt material around tennis balls to create a durable and much-loved toy for dogs.
While Saturday’s event was the first of its kind for the city of Vancouver and most young vendors who participated, the Beaded Besties, three cousins selling skin treats and beaded jewelry, are no strangers to market business. They have appeared in markets outside Vancouver on multiple occasions and have become quite adept at managing their own business, paying close attention to their profit margins. They gift-wrapped products for customers and included business cards with each purchase. Referring to the effort and planning required to be well-organized and successful, they said, “It’s hard work, but it feels easy when your friends are by your side.”
“It’s exciting to see all the new business knowledge and effort our entrepreneurs put into action,” said Janet Kenefsy, vice president of operations of the Chamber and city director of Lemonade Day. “We are sure that this experience will impact our junior marketers’ lives and future professional careers.”
The market closed with raffle prizes for participants and the announcement of Vancouver’s Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year. Louie Heikkinen and Oliver Deligio-Busha, owners of Love’ N Stuff, were named Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year for earning the most significant revenue at $800. They sold a wide variety of rainbow-themed products, including framed crayon art, tinted mason jars, wax bead bowls, and notecards.
Saturday’s Junior Market gave participants a greater understanding of their ability to operate a business and earn income. Most were surprised by their financial success and enjoyed seeing what their fellow business owners created. The Greater Vancouver Chamber has already told kids they can look forward to next year’s event.
Jessica Hofer Wilkinson is a freelance writer, home educator and mother of four and nursing home chaplain. She resides in Clark County.
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