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Youth market empowers young entrepreneurs

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Youth market empowers young Powhatan entrepreneurs

Customers Katie Clark of Powhatan and her daughter, 8-year-old Kaya, buy a custom-ordered paper dagger from Liam Harris at July’s Next Generation Youth Market.

POWHATAN – A group of young entrepreneurs has been getting the opportunity to test their creativity and business acumen this summer through the Next Generation Youth Market.

Youth participating in the program have had the opportunity to sell their produce and/or products on the third Thursday of each month during the summer at the Powhatan Village Farmers Market. The market is open from 4 to 6:30 every Thursday through September at the Bienvenue events center in the Village. The last dates for the youth market are Aug. 18 and Sept. 15.

The Powhatan County Extension Office has hosted an entrepreneur program for the last decade that encourages Powhatan youth ages 9 to 17 to get involved, said Cathy Howland, Powhatan County 4-H Extension Agent. After they do a spring after-school program to learn the basics of being an entrepreneur – marketing, budgeting, advertising, how to display items – they get the chance over the summer to put these skills into practice.

“It is just learning life skills. They are learning so many great skills – responsibility, money management, customer service, public speaking – we practice that kind of stuff during the after-school program,” she said.

The youth even pay $5 each month for their booth space at the market so they are invested in the entire process, she added.

This summer, a total of nine youth went through the class and a 10th youth who participated previously also joined in the youth market. It has been exciting to see the children branch out and bring different offerings to the youth market, Howland said. She has been happy to see the growing confidence in the youth as they realize they aren’t too young to be entrepreneurs.

“We’ve got a really young one that has been learning, but we’ve got these older kids who are really shining and are in their element. They have just really taken to it well,” Howland said.

Liam Harris, 11, was busy during the July market as he made paper weapons – swords and knives – on demand out of construction paper. A customer could walk up and place a customized order based on their preferred colors and weapon design, and only using paper and tape, he would make it in front of them or while they shopped.

Liam got the idea for the paper weapons from watching YouTube videos and started making them for himself, playing with different designs he saw and then creating his own designs.

“I made my first weapon and I just continued on from there, because it was really fun. It just seemed really cool – the fact that you could make something like this,” he said, brandishing a paper sword, “out of something as flimsy as paper.”

Participating in the market is a pleasure because you can take something you love and turn it into a profitable endeavor, he added.

Teagan Leonard, 14, is the one returning youth in this year’s program, running a booth at the market with her brother, Finley, 12. At their joint booth, Teagan sold homemade stickers, cards, bookmarks, and necklaces, which she also started selling on Etsy, and Finley sells 3-D printed figurines.

“I was invited back. I think it has changed a bit. The sticker quality is better, and our setup is definitely much better than it was before,” Teagan said.

After helping his sister out last year, Finley said when he got the 3-D printer, he was encouraged to join. He likes meeting new people and working on his public speaking skills since the siblings are homeschooled.

Finnegan Douglas, 11, sold homemade bird feeders and bird houses at the youth market. He wanted to make spending money and thought the youth market would be a fun activity for the summer. His mom helped him make the bird houses that are made out of wood and the feeders that are made from old tea cups and saucers.

“I think (the youth market) is a really good idea. It shows the kids that this is an easy idea to do when you grow up,” he said.

Selling his first item gave Finnegan more confidence to talk to customers and try to make sales. “It was really easy once I started to get into a rhythm.”

Kaz Mock, market manager, said having the youth market brings great energy to the market and offers an opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills.

“They are just part of the team here; it’s great,” she said.

For more information, contact the Powhatan Extension Office at (804) 598-5640 or email Cathy Howland, 4-H Extension Agent, at chowland@vt.edu.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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