Fair will award $2,000 to young entrepreneurs - A little girl holding a baby -
Jessica takes notes on testimonials. GABRIEL SANCHEZ/ Keys Weekly

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of three stories tracking the progress of young local entrepreneurs leading up to the Brainery’s Keys Kids Business Faire on Saturday, March 24. Further stories will appear in editions of March 2 and  March 16.

Local education company, The Brainery, is giving away $2,000 in scholarship prizes to budding entrepreneurs in its first ever Keys Kids Business Faire. More than 25 students have already shown interest.

Set for Saturday, March 24, the competition will allow kids, age 7 to 17, to showcase their product, service or business model to the public. Island Christian School has partnered with the Brainery to host the event in its gymnasium. Registration is $75, of which $25 will go back to the child in the form of a new college savings plan. The first place prize is valued at $1,500 in scholarship money; second is $1,000, and third place is $500.

“We want to encourage parents and students to begin thinking about their future and planning financially,” said Brainery co-founder Lizz Smoak.

With Nancy Hull, Smoak started the educational company to provide enrichment courses to students. Its summer STEM camps allowed local kids to experience careers they normally wouldn’t get a chance to learn about until later in life. The weeklong classes introduced kids to digital arts, theater, culinary, veterinarian sciences and engineering.

“We received a lot of feedback from schools and parents to do more of those types of events throughout the year,” she said. “We both have a passion for entrepreneurship, and our kids are demonstrating that as well, so we wanted to bring the idea of a kid’s business fair to the Keys.”

The business fair has attracted the attention of surrounding schools and teachers, like Stanley Switlik Elementary teacher Merlou Robinson.

Robinson’s third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade enrichment classes have begun a similar entrepreneurship project to design and create a first business. Students’ products or services will be showcased at the marketplace event planned in conjunction with the project. Students will track their profits and losses in the school’s student currency, Dolphin Dollars. With the project’s completion planned before the fair, Robinson is encouraging students to participate.

“We’ve been working on it a few days so far and are going to have our own business fair at Stanley Switlik. Hopefully some of the groups will go on to the (Brainery’s) fair,” said Robinson. “We are trying to brainstorm ideas with a range of startup costs.”

Among the ideas so far are framed inspirational quotes, beaded bracelets, a root beer float startup, stress balls, and at least one upcycling project.

Local businesses are encouraged to consider sponsoring an entrepreneur leading up to the fair. With a seeming lack of internship and journeyman programs in the area, Smoak said, businesses can help groom the next generation of business owners by sponsoring a kid.

“Business owners generally raise entrepreneurs,” said Smoak. “There is a sense of grit behind generational entrepreneurism, and for our kids to return to the Keys and be successful they often have to come back as business owners.”

Each participating entrepreneur is given product concept workbooks to help organize and flesh out the most marketable ideas. To help young entrepreneurs throughout the process, the Brainery is also offering a series of free workshops leading up to fair.

The first workshop on Feb. 10 focused on product development. The two-hour course taught young entrepreneurs about the importance of creating multiple drafts of an idea, the role that failure has in creation, and how to plan for a product’s shortcomings. The workshop also covered the concept of testimonials and how necessity often leads to invention.

Entrepreneurs like Treasure Village Montessori second grader Sophia Allen used the course as a way to develop clear goals for their products or services. Inspired in part by a documentary she saw on Netflix, Allen decided to produce “hair sunscreen.”

“My three goals by the end of year are to make $500 in revenue, sell my product online, and be at the business fair,” said Allen.

The next workshop is on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Islamorada public library and will discuss packaging and pricing. A branding and marketing workshop is in the planning stages. Robinson and the Brainery are also looking into holding a workshop at Stanley Switlik. The Weekly will continue to follow the young entrepreneurs on their path to the fair. For questions and sponsorship call 305-394-5950 or email [email protected].



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