Kids' Business Fair - MetroFamily Magazine
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Kids’ Business Fair

by Jennifer Hodgens. Photos provided.

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Ugh, the dog days of summer. Those weeks between 4th of July and school can be rough. It’s this time of year when the novelty summer freedom has worn off, it’s just too hot to go outside and summer camps have wrapped up. With daylight lasting until almost bedtime, summer days seem gloriously never-ending in May but exhaustingly never-ending now. These are the weeks when moms start hearing “I’m bored” a million times a day.

My house was no exception. My daughter is creative and has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. “I’m going to make a lemonade stand!” I’d hear and immediately think of sticky kitchen countertops, fly-swarming plastic pitchers and a sad child when the 2 cars that drove by our house, flew right by without stopping to hand over $5 for warm, watered-down, yellow liquid in a plastic cup. How rude of them. Then I’d feel guilty because I was crushing every hope of my daughter someday becoming a successful business owner and I’d scrounge up $20 to buy the same lemonade I originally paid for and then clean up the mess when the lemonade stand wasn’t fun anymore. You’d find me chasing blown-away paper napkins, cussing under my breath that never again would I agree to a lemonade stand and that I was officially the worst mom ever.

This time when she begged to have a lemonade stand, I hid my automatic eye roll and had an idea. There were likely dozens of moms in our neighborhood dreaming of bus lines, drop offs and teacher appreciation too. “There are a million kids in this neighborhood. Go make friends and play outside” I’d say just trying to distract. “Set up shop in front of the playground where you’ll have more customers.”

I posted, “Anyone interested in making a Kids’ Business Fair at the park?” on our neighborhood Facebook page and quickly had several positive responses. I threw together a Sign-up Genius and designed a banner to hang in front of the playground by the street. I told everyone to bring their own table, sign and merchandise to sell and to price per ticket rather than per dollar. Quickly families started signing up. I found a couple of food trucks and posted a few more times on our neighborhood page encouraging neighbors to come help support these kids (and exhausted moms).

When the day came, kids started showing up several hours ahead of time. They had handmade glitter-covered poster board and started lining up their wares proudly. Moms set up lawn chairs trying to sit back to let the kids take charge (mostly). The food trucks arrived and by the time the fair kicked off, we had 17 booths spread all over the park with about 40 kids involved. It was so exciting! Being a little concerned we’d have 5 competing lemonade stands I was thrilled to see the wide variety of things the kids brought to sell. Lego chess sets, hand painted shoes, homemade salsa, flower arrangements, soap, cookies and jewelry. Each family spent all week preparing and now sat together at their own booths. One family had made popular 3D models in the form of toy dragons, keychains and charms. My daughter offered homemade dog treats, had a cooler full of dog popsicles and passed out her handmade fliers advertising her dog-walking services.

The neighborhood showed up in a big way for these kids! Many visitors talked about seeing the banner up all week and planned their weekend around being able to come. Grandmas and grandpas who lived across town had been invited and many neighbors who didn’t have kids at home anymore kindly visited each booth listening to each kid’s spiel. Booths were named after the families like “The Smith Family delicious treats” and even the couple of lemonade stands offered competitive flair like sparkle lemons, bendy straws and juice flavors to attract buyers.

I set up a centralized ticket stand at the picnic bench and sold tickets for $1 each.  Neighbors eagerly bought 10, 20, 50 tickets to shop with and often came back for more. I linked Venmo and PayPal, so they didn’t have to scrounge up cash and the kids didn’t have to try to make change.

At the end of the event (which flew by despite the hot sun), the kids all stood in line to turn in their collected tickets for money. It was fun hearing what they planned to do with their loot – from having spending money for their family vacation to saving up for college (that kid collected a lot of sympathy money – genius!). Everyone asked to do the event again.  Some mentioned suggesting it to the schools and other neighborhoods. I agreed.

The Kids Business Fair was relatively easy to throw together, and it brought a week of anticipation and preparation, good business lessons for the kids and families having fun working on a project together. It ended up being one of my daughter’s favorite summer memories. #momwin

Jennifer Hodgens is a local mom with a rising 6th grader in Deer Creek.  She and her husband, Craig have a real estate and homebuilding company called OklaHome.  She loves going to the farmers market, thrift shopping and traveling to her daughter’s horse shows. She also enjoys writing about her family adventure stories on her blog

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