Coleman Elementary School fifth-grader Caroline Moulden and Smith Middle School sixth-grader Madi McClure will be among the entrepreneurs at Saturday’s Children’s Business Fair at the Cleburne Conference Center in conjunction with the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo.
Current or future business owners, between the ages of 6-17, were eligible for participation in this year’s first-time event, based on an application process including the submission of a business and marketing plan.
On Saturday, they will have the opportunity to display their products, provide information on their business and take orders. This will be done under the watchful eyes of judges, who will rate the creativity and visual appeal of their selling spaces and their interaction with consumers, in addition to their efforts in establishing their business.
“I learned about the Children’s Business Fair program a few years ago,” organizer Johnna Buntin said. “With my passions being children and crafting, I knew that I wanted to eventually bring this event to Cleburne. It wasn’t until this year when a friend, Roberta Young, asked me to be on the board of Cleburne Makerspace, an upcoming nonprofit, that I decided this was the time to launch a local event. The purpose in doing this is to get kids in our area excited about learning to make their own products and also providing them with an outlet for their sales.”
McClure launched her vinyl decal business, “Stick with Madi” in the summer, at the encouragement of her parents, Mark and Sarah McClure. The sample products she will have displayed at the Fair include Cleburne Yellow Jackets and Texas-themed items in the form of keychains, bracelets and Christmas ornaments.
“At the start of the summer, we decided we wanted our kids to learn the value of a dollar, especially when it came to ‘wants,’” Sarah McClure said. “We’ve always given our kids everything they’ve asked for — and Mark and I weren’t raised that way. I have a Cricut and have been doing things with T-shirts and monograms. The motto in our house is, ‘if it doesn’t move, monogram it.’ Madi came to me and asked if she could learn how to use my equipment, with thoughts of ultimately raising money herself.
“I showed her one time, then she sat down at the computer and began working on her own with the program and the product. Now she’s better than me. She created some vinyl for signage in the classroom for one of our teachers and it took off — she was immediately backed up with orders. She’s been able to buy those extra school clothes she likes while learning about business and money.”
Madi views her business as doing something she enjoys, while making money at the same time. Word of mouth and her “Stick with Madi” Facebook page have been major marketing vehicles for her product line.
“At first I wanted to help my mom, but then I decided I wanted to do this on my own,” the 11-year-old said. “Having my own business is fun, and I’ve had lots of orders. I love seeing the faces of my customers when they send me pictures of what I made for them, especially when they post it on Facebook. I feel like I’m only one of a few kids who have the opportunity to own a business and run it.
“I’ve used my profits to buy more materials and pay back my parents for their help with supplies when I first started out. I’m also saving for a Kendra Scott ring, so if I have any extra money, that’s what it’s going for. I’ve learned a lot about how money works and running a business — how to promote it and get people to buy your product.”
As a budding entrepreneur, Madi has had to make some tough choices when it comes to the use of her time.
“A lot of my friends will ask me to come shopping with them and I have to say no because of my business,” she said. “They ask if I can do it another time and I have to tell them I can’t. I have a commitment — and this is fun.”
Caroline, who turns 11 today, spent the summer making and selling homemade “slime,” a concoction made popular in school science experiments. Moulden sells four ounce versions in three varieties — Crunchy Slime, Glitter Slime and Butter Slime. She’s also created a Stress Slime, which has sold well. The ingredients in her recipe, developed through trial and error, include Elmer’s glue, Sta Flo liquid starch, shaving cream and contact lens solution.
“Making slime is something I enjoy,” Caroline said. “My aunt suggested I start a business and three weeks later, I was on Etsy. We went through several versions and brainstormed a bunch, especially with coming up with the name of my business, ‘Snazzy Slimerators.’ Etsy had to approve it.”
Sarah Moulden said Caroline’s great-aunt encouraged her niece to sell her product on the e-commerce website.
“She has a friend whose daughter had a successful slime store on Etsy,” Sarah Moulden said. “Caroline really enjoys showing other people how to make it. Her creativity and ingenuity combine when she experiments with the ingredients, and adds others on a whim. The making may be more fun than the selling, but she has gotten a lot of interest, judging by her Etsy store stats — which Caroline keeps up with — along with her sales.”
After beginning her operation, Caroline’s second-grade sister, Hadley, offered to help and serves as assistant manager. And while slime is definitely fun to make and play with, Caroline said there is a serious side to starting a business.
“Since I don’t understand all the economics, it was confusing at first,” she said. “I worried if I would make any money. When I heard about the Children’s Business Fair, I really got excited and wanted to apply. It required a lot of work — graphic design, making the product labels and business cards and meeting deadlines. It’s been stressful — but also a lot of fun.
“I’ve changed my recipe for improved customer satisfaction. I’ve also had to evaluate my packaging costs, with the ultimate goal to make a little profit. Slime began as a hobby, but now it’s a business for me. If I don’t sell out at the Business Fair, I anticipate making a lot of sales on Etsy.”
The student entrepreneurs and their parents agree that involvement in commerce and the free enterprise system has been a positive learning experience. Both girls are making payments on the “small business” loans they received from their parents in starting their operations.
“It’s been good for Madi,” Sarah McClure said. “She’s become a better saver and money manager. She can see how easily you can go through money. She’s pickier now as to how she spends the money she has. She’s definitely learned the value of a dollar and takes good care of what she buys.”
“I’d like to maybe expand on what I’m doing,” Madi said. “When I get older, maybe I will get a building. Right now I’m working out of my mom’s home office. I want to be a teacher like my mom, but I think I would also like to do this. I’m really excited about the business fair. It’s something different for a kid to do.”
Caroline is also excited about the fair and what lies ahead for her business. While she is holding firm on her career plan to become a nurse, she is keeping an eye on her operation and is exploring the potential of YouTube videos in marketing her product line.
“Her father and I are so proud of her,” Sarah Moulden said. “This is a step outside her comfort zone and a real-life way to learn about being an entrepreneur. No matter her sales this weekend, she has gained valuable experience.
“We appreciate Johnna Buntin and the sponsors for organizing the Children’s Business Fair and offering this opportunity to our community’s youngest budding business men and women.”