Children learn ins and outs of business in first-ever young entrepreneur fair

Published 9:27 pm Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Albert Lea Farmers Market wasn’t open, but shoppers could still find a variety of items for sale as children ages 6 to 14 were at the North Broadway parking lot Sunday afternoon for the Young Entrepreneurs Business Fair.

The goal: Show children how business worked.

“I know my kids were interested in making and selling products,” said Bri Neely, coordinator for the event. “So I thought why not make a huge event where kids can come do their own things.”

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According to Neely, just over a dozen booths were on hand for the fair, and she described the event as a place for kids to display their ideas while making money at the same time.

She hoped the fair inspired participants, taught them about running a business, showed them how to earn money, showed them how to apply creative ideas, developed their imagination and got the community involved.

She also hoped the fair would act as an educational tool, noting not all children wanted to sit at a desk to learn.

“A lot of kids want to go out and do stuff and be involved in the community, and so that was really exciting to watch,” she said. “And just all the parts that go into it: The math, the reading, the writing, all that. It’s been super awesome.”

Of the roughly dozen businesses participating, there was someone selling dog treats, someone selling lemonade; there were jewelry vendors, canvas artists, a boy who sold worms for fishermen, a candle-maker, a girl who ran a nail salon and someone who sold slime.

“Kids love it,” Neely said about the slime.

Planning started back in April, after she got the idea from the Acton Academy.

“A husband and wife started these business fairs probably 10 years ago, and it’s been thriving ever since,” she said. “I got the inspiration from them.”

For her, the biggest challenge was organization and making people aware of the event.

“For a while I was going to quit because I only had [four] people signed up, and it was kind of discouraging … but then my kids were continuing to want to do it and sell their ideas and they were excited when they talked about it,” she said. “From there I changed my mindset and then all of a sudden more people got involved and got excited about it.”

She hadn’t looked back since.

“It’s been really fun,” Neely said. “It’s been fun to see the kids, and they’re just excited to do it. It’s been fun to see people in the community slowly come here to support the kids.”

But the fair was more than an opportunity to make money.

“Just kind of getting that creative gene in these kids and keeping that spark alive on using their creative mind and selling their products,” Neely said.

Colette Wipplinger brought her business — Colette’s Nail Salon — to the fair.

Wipplinger had a history of doing nails in her family, including her sisters’ and those of her mother and grandmother.

“I hope a lot of people come,” she said.

Her mother, Shannon, admitted Colette did good work, and said the idea for the nail salon was Colette’s.

Dustin Cline was among her first customers.

“I think she’s very good at what she does, and I think that a lot of people are saying things about kids not being motivated nowadays,” he said. “Now’s our time to show these kids hard work pays off. Why not [get my nails done].”

London Blake, who has been running Happy Charms since the pandemic, came all the way from the Twin Cities.

“I sell jewelry and croc charms,” she said.

London was there with her mother, Ivory White, who also helped her with the startup.

“She likes to sell,” White said, noting her goal for the event was to network.

Anyone interested in buying from London but who couldn’t attend Sunday’s fair can visit her Facebook page — Happy Charms by London.

According to London, all profits from Sunday’s sales will go toward college.

Cooper Cunningham was operating Cooper’s Garden Co. with his mother, Laura.

“It’s fun,” he said in describing why he wanted to participate.

Marja Stenzel was one of the shoppers Sunday.

“We actually know a couple of the girls that have a booth here, and we wanted to check it out,” she said.

She described the fair as “pretty cool” and thought it was a good way to teach kids about starting and operating a business.

With her was Addie Stenzel.

“I think it’s really cool that a lot of people get to just sell things that they make,” she said, adding that though she wasn’t selling Sunday, she’d consider participating in future fairs and sell bracelets, something she enjoys.

For those who missed it, Neely planned to do more of these fairs in the future, though no dates have been set. For anyone interested in participating in future fairs, visit