Inaugural event at Community Center enables children, teens to sell products such as jewelry, crafts they made

Photo courtesy Ewa Samples From left to right: Lily Lehrfeld, Natalia Samples, Evie Lehrfeld, Ewelina Samples, Tatyana Borovick, Natashia Borovick, display their products at a previous fair.

By Marty Cheek

Looking for the next generation’s Elon Musk or Debbi Fields? You just might find them Saturday, July 31, at the Morgan Hill Community Center at the South Valley’s inaugural Acton Children’s Business Fair.

More than three dozen young people will show off their entrepreneurial spirit by selling products and services from hand-crafted jewelry to a pet pooper-scooper at the event which goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event is organized by local photographer/videographer Ewa Samples. She sees the fair as an opportunity to encourage children and teens to get creative during summer and find ways to earn a little extra cash while building their commerce skills.

“I’m a business owner and I’m passionate about kids getting into that kind of line of thinking,” she said. ”I’m not against the normal going to work and working for someone else. But I wish for my own kids to someday have their own businesses instead of working for someone else.”

A few years ago, Samples held a workshop for kids where she taught the skills they need to open their own businesses. Through that activity, she learned about the Acton Business Fair, a nonprofit organization started in 2007 by Jeff and Laura Sandefer in Austin, Texas. The couple wanted to spark a sense of wonder and entrepreneurship in their children. With the help of a few other families, they held the first fair and enjoyed it so much, they knew they had to share it with other communities.

Samples and her children decided to attend an Action Business Fair in San Jose in 2019, signing up her kids and friends’ kids to participate with their own craft businesses. She was impressed with how fun it was for the young entrepreneurs.

Tatyana Borovick displays her art for sale at the July 31 Children’s Business Fair at the Morgan Hill Community Center. Photo courtesy Ewa Samples

“I think I loved it more than my kids,” she said.  “Just the whole idea of seeing kids and how creative they were and how hard they worked. Some of them had amazing sales pitches. It was so cute to see them.”

The Acton Children’s Business Fair is a free program offered to entrepreneurial families by the network of Acton Academy schools and the Acton Next Great Adventure program. Hosting a small fair can be as simple as setting up card tables or long tables in a yard or some green space like a park and bringing together a team of business-minded young people to sell their products and services.

Early in 2021, Samples received an email from Acton Academy inviting her to host a Children’s Business Fair in the South Valley. She submitted an application and a short video with her kids as entrepreneurs. A couple of days later, she received a reply and information on how to launch her own business fair for kids.

Forty-one children ages 8 to 14 are signed up for the fair with 26 booths arranged for shoppers to wander around and learn about what the young people are selling, she said.

Natalia Samples displays her products for the Children’s Business Fair Saturday July 31 at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center. Photo courtesy Ewa Samples

“They get a table provided to them and then they can pretty much set up their own booths for whatever they have to sell,” she said. “They will have the freedom of how they want to set it up and decorate it.”

Three judges will wander among the various wares and services for sale and choose which ones are the best three to receive prizes.

“I have kids selling paintings and bracelets and earrings. I have kids selling painted pottery with succulent arrangements in them.”

Natashia Borovick displays her products. Photo courtesy Ewa Samples

The children who participate in the fair will develop their skills in creating a “start-up” business and tap into their creativity by making something with their own hands, Samples said. They can then sell their products in a safe environment and experience the freedom and gain the responsibility of having some extra spending money as a reward. It teaches them to develop a brand and market their business to build their “company.”

This event is free to the public to visit. Samples encourages those attending bring plenty of cash to shop for gifts, jewelry and other products and services offered by children and teens at the fair.

Registration for each booth is $50. The money goes to help pay for the rental cost of the Community Center and other expenses for putting on the fair.

“This is a great opportunity for the kids to start thinking about the expenses of running a business,” she said.

Samples hopes if this summer’s Children’s Business Fair proves successful in benefiting young people, it will grow into an annual tradition for the South Valley. This year’s fair will have young people not only from Morgan Hill but also from Hollister, San Jose, Santa Clara and as far away as Fairfield.

Her two daughters, ages 9 and 11, will participate in this year’s fair. One will be selling crafts and scarves and designed T-shirts. The other will sell macrame crafts.

One boy is selling a dog poop clean-up, Samples said.

“It’s like a subscription where you pay him and he comes to your house and cleans up the backyard,” she said. “I just want to encourage kids to be as creative as possible. And maybe the idea might stick and they might start to make money. Who knows?”

The children will also not just earn money for their work but gain psychological rewards as well, she said.

“It also gives the kids confidence because when they create something, they go and sell their products and get money for it, they get to thinking: “Wow! I can do that. I have the power to do a business,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

They’ll also learn communication skills in their sales pitch as they try to convince someone to buy their product, she said.

For Samples’ daughters, it gives them something productive to do during the summer and not spend time idly sitting in front of the TV and being bored, she said.

Sponsors of the fair include Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, The FillerUp Shop, Next Great Adventure, Art on the Farm, and Acton Academy.

A fair where kids have an opportunity to learn to be entrepreneurs is an exciting idea to encourage young people to think about careers building a business, said Brittney Sherman, CEO of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce

“Fostering entrepreneurship in young minds is a very positive thing in the community,” she said. “Youth now are our future leaders, and not only is it important for them to feel invested in the community but be creative and that they’re giving back.”

Samples approached Sherman after she gave a presentation from the Chamber to a women’s networking group. She invited her to be one of the three judges and rate the quality of the booths to find the best three.

“She thought that because the Chamber represents the large business community, the adult business community, it might be neat to start encouraging the youth,” Sherman said. “I absolutely agreed with her.”

Marty Cheek