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“We definitely took lemons and made lemonade out of them,” Acton Academy Mesilla Valley (AAMV) founder Anna Biad said about the school’s annual Las Cruces Children’s Business Fair, which continues through June 17 at www.kidsbusinessmarket.org.
The fair began in 2016, when AAMV opened, Biad said, but was cancelled last year and had to be held entirely online this year because of Covid-19. But that didn’t stop about 60 of the school’s students, ages 6 to 16, from creating products to sell this year.
The array of items available is “incredibly diverse,” Biad said.
During the sale, you will find clothing, jewelry, woodwork, candles, books, art (including an original coloring book and abstract crystal paintings), homemade games, cosmetics, bath products, mugs, stickers, pottery, slime, craft sets, a bouncy-ball kit, essential oils, greeting cards, keychains, storage trays, pet leashes, rubber molds, facemasks, tic tac toe rocks, a 3D-printed self-watering planter, Flex-Rex dinosaurs, toys and more.
Prices range from $3 to $40, with most items costing $10 or less.
Each student entrepreneur participating in the fair chose his or her own product, researched and created it, priced it and, if financial backing was needed, pitched it to an investor, Biad said.
A shark-tank panel of judges looked at each “business” and rated it for viability, profitability and overall presentation, Biad said, and chose nine winners for first-, second- and third-place awards. Top finishers received business investments of up to $150.
Winners in the Discovery West (third and fourth grades) competition were: Cooper Gandy, first place; Juliet Martinez, second place; and Emerson Phillips, third place, all 9 years old. Winners in the Discovery East (fourth and fifth grades) competition were: Lilah Berkson, 11, first place; Holden Abrams, 9, second place; and Piper Gandy, 11, third place. Winners in the Journey/Launchpad (sixth to 11th grades) competition were: Lexi Schwartz, 16, first place; Mary Hadrian, 15, second place; and Henry Tatum, 12, third place.
Entrepreneurship is “such a powerful skill,” Biad said. Students learn how to take a product from idea to production, develop a brand, create a marketing strategy and speak publicly about their product. They also learn about packaging and shipping and curbside pickup, depending on their customers’ preferences.
Sometimes, young entrepreneurs also learn to deal with disappointment, Biad said, if, for example, they don’t create enough product to meet demand, underprice their product and wind up losing money or wind up with poor sales.
Overcoming those failures is part of what they learn from the fair, Biad said, which is so valuable in a non-classroom setting.
The annual fair is “one of our most popular activities,” Biad said. And going virtual this year fit well with the year-round school’s focus on technology.
Biad said the fair was inspired by her own success with “all the small businesses I had as a child,” she said, including selling hot chocolate and mistletoe one Christmas. She even learned QuickBooks at the age of 14.
“AAMV uses the latest technology in a self-paced learning environment that is designed to foster responsibility, goal-setting and teamwork,” according to the school’s website. “Acton students are empowered to thrive in a world that needs independent, motivated thinkers and learners.”
The academy will have about 100 students when the new school year begins in September, Biad said.
What the young entrepreneurs learned from the business fair-experience
"I learned that centripetal force and high-pressure air have a lot of power and that duct tape is the best tool," said Holden Abrams, 9. He is selling an air-compressed potato gun and duct tape ball on a string. “I liked to make stuff go far,” he said. This is Holden’s third business fair.
Lexi Schwartz, 16, said she learned that “doing something you love is more important than something you do to get done.” She made New Mexico wildlife stickers. This is her fourth business fair, and she said she “put her heart and soul into it this time.”
“I learned that coloring was fun,” said Cooper Gandy, 9. He made wooden square calendars for the business fair.
“I learned if you don’t put effort into something it probably won’t turn out well,” said Juliet Martinez, 9, who made dog blankets and chew toys.
“Resin is a hard material to use,” said Piper Gandy, 11, adding, “I had a lot of fun.” She made resin rings.
“Making slime is hard,” said Emerson “Emme” Phillips, 9. “It shrinks.” She made and is selling slime during the fair.