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Young entrepreneurs get chance to shine

Chauncy Jones has been surprised to see his daughter, Chaniya LaShai, take to being an entrepreneur.

But the 10-year-old Northern Shores Elementary School student has done more than that with her business, Buggie’s Bowtique, which makes and sells handcrafted bows, scrunchies and collars.

Chaniya, who had hoped to come away with some money to continue building her business, did just that during Saturday’s Young Entrepreneur Business Expo at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront, winning the People’s Choice Award and $100.

“She started off buying the big bows, and I was like, you can make these if you want,” Jones said. “I’m always trying to push the entrepreneurial spirit in my children.”

Chaniya, who only started her business in late November, was excited to be a part of the expo.

“I had seen people making scrunchies by hand, so I tried it also,” Chaniya said. “And then I asked my mom, ‘Could she help me make a business?’ She did. And then we started doing a whole bunch of other things, so then we started doing bows and then a lot of people started ordering my stuff, because they loved bows.”

Richard Chaing, an entrepreneur and president of Suffolk Executive Offices, noted the expo’s growth from 14 businesses run by young entrepreneurs last year to 31 businesses — all run by kids ages 7 to 17 — in its second year.

Chaing said some kids were enticed to participate this year by what they saw last year, while others who participated refined their product and returned.

“Kids who came last year, they changed some of their product items,” Chaing said. “They did a little bit different stuff to increase their sales. I’m encouraged.”

Carter Shupert, 14, of Virginia Beach, was one of those who came back and refined his product line. Last year, he sold blow dart guns and darts under his business, Carter’s Emporium. This year, he decided to change gears and sell custom-made pens. His business, The Pen Place, won the award for Highest Business Potential and $300.

“I decided to upgrade from blow guns,” Carter said. “They seemed a lot more dangerous, so I was like, ‘Why don’t I just go into woodworking, something I can do with my hands?’ So I decided to make pens and get a lathe. I started out with pens, but I can go on to tons of other stuff.”

He also learned additional business skills during last year’s event that he has carried over to his new business.

“I’ve learned how to be a bit more professional and what I can do better,” Carter said, “and also change the business in general.”

Two Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sixth-graders were also at the expo for the first time with their business, Seaglass Co., which uses authentic sea glass to make art and handcrafted jewelry. Eliana Carson, 11, and Rachel Maples, 11, who started their business during a sleepover in December, took the Most Original Business award and $200.

Within the first week of their business, they had made $35, and have been going ever since. They also sell their items door-to-door and at the Totally Taffi Boutique. When they came up with the idea for their business, they had talked about doing a lemonade stand first, but they decided to work with sea glass, which they gather once per week.

They also will be donating 10 percent of their profits to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.
“We started with the simplest stuff, and then we started getting more advanced, and we’re going to continue to grow,” Rachel said.

Sarah Moyer, 11, of Virginia Beach and Evelyn Peters, 10, of Chesapeake, came to the expo with their business, 2 Tweens, which they had started just three weeks earlier. They like using natural products, so they made items using all natural ingredients designed to soothe and nourish the body.

“We heard about the expo and we’re both very competitive and we’ve been best friends for a long time,” Evelyn said. “So we decided that we wanted to do it.”

Araya Taylor and Malachi Nowell, both 11, came from Hobbsville, N.C., with their business, Rubberband Warriors. Araya said she started the business about two to three years ago, and soon after brought Malachi, her cousin, into it and learned different styles from another cousin, and found new designs through YouTube.

“I was in math class one day and my cousin, she had some rubber bands and she was making a bracelet, and I thought it was quite fascinating, so I asked her to teach me how to make them, and once she taught me how to make them, I started making them and I got my cousin Malachi involved in it. And that’s when we opened a business.”

LaShai’s friends at school have asked her how she runs her own business at her age. She tells them to just chase their dreams. Like others at the expo, she enjoyed seeing other young entrepreneurs like herself.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “I didn’t know there were this many young kids doing all this type of stuff. And the craziest thing is, I’m just noticing, is that I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m 10 years old. It’s crazy. It really is.”

 

Young Entrepreneur Business Expo winners:

  • Highest Business Potential Award and $300: Carter Shupert, 14 — The Pen Place (handcrafted wooden pens).
  • Most Original Business Award and $200: Rachel Maples, 11 and Eliana Carson, 11 — The Seaglass Co. (art and jewelry handcrafted authentic sea glass)
  • Best Presentation Award and $100: Nick Williams, 14 — Nicky J Custom (custom bikes)
  • People’s Choice Award and $100: Chaniya Jones, 10 — Buggie’s Bowtique (handcrafted bows, scrunchies, collars)