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Museum Encourages Kids to Become Young Entrepreneurs

Kid Bizness program at the Children's museum

Kid Bizness program at the Children's museum

Kid Bizness program at the Children's museum

Kid Bizness program at the Children's museum

Kid Bizness program at the Children's museum

Kids have bright business ideas all the time, but they don’t always follow through with creating an enterprise of their own. A program at the U.P. Children’s Museum helps them do that, with training and help to develop their ideas.
Ingenuity and perseverance--plus a little adult guidance--equals success for young entrepreneurs at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum in Marquette. The museum’s Kid Bizness program offers children ages 7 to 17 the opportunity to design and construct their own products and sell them in Sprout, a shop located in the museum.

Kid Bizness was launched in 2010 by the museum’s bookkeeper, designer and education coordinator, who worked together toward a goal of supporting young designers. A start-up grant from the Davenport Foundation in Grand Rapids helped finance the opening of Sprout.

"There were 12 initial entrepreneurs who had articles on the shelf for sale in June 2010," says Jim Edwards, museum education coordinator.. "The number has risen to 28, with a steady ebb and flow as they sell all their stuff (and before they re-stock) or grow older."

Edwards says confidence is the biggest asset young people gain from Kid Bizness.

"Their own outcomes are such a variety. The older members want money and the beginnings of a way forward to seeing themselves in the world of work. The younger ones want  money--and adult recognition. We are in the business at the museum of finding qualities in children and reminding them of those qualities,” he says.

Although the museum has offered Kid Bizness trainings and orientations, "It really has become an individual program, rather than a team approach," Edwards explains.

"Group meetings are near impossible. The youngsters come from Las Vegas, Houghton and Hancock, downstate, as well as from the Marquette County area. It's a diverse group. In the next months we are hosting workshops for packaging, pricing, marketing, and a new training on Feb. 21."

Sisters Megan and Alyssa Peterson of Marquette brought their creativity to Kid Bizness and are learning the skills to turn that creativity into cash. Alyssa, 17, has been a Kid Bizness participant since its inception, while Megan joined last summer, attracted to the program because "My sister was doing it and it just looked fun."

Alyssa sells a variety of products, including candles, jewelry, dream catchers, coaster sets, record bowls (record albums heated in the oven and molded into bowls), outlet covers, wind chimes made from driftwood and keys and silverware, as well as photographs.

"All are homemade and most made from natural and recycled materials," Alyssa says.

One important marketing lesson Alyssa has learned is that appearance counts. "Packaging is a really important factor. It can really be the difference between selling lots of stuff (or) nothing."

And while Alyssa acknowledges that being a young entrepreneur can be "frustrating at times when you aren't making any sales, it's totally worth it when you get a paycheck and you know that someone wanted something that you made yourself.”

Megan, age 11, has focused on developing a single product, hula hoops. "I make them myself. I use tubing and duct tape and I make them all pretty,” she says.

Megan learned patience and flexibility are key factors for success. "Sometimes you need to change what you made; it doesn't always work the first time. I had to try a lot and a lot and a lot of different ways to make the hula hoops."

Having found success with her first product, Megan is now looking at expanding her product line.

"I'm thinking of other things to make. My sister has about 10 things so I want to sell more, too. It's a fun thing to do and a good way to make money,” she says.

For more information on Kid Bizness, contact Edwards at 226-3911 or museummrjim@gmail.com. The museum, and the Sprout store, are located at 123 W. Baraga Avenue in Marquette.
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