My first interaction with WSE was through the weekly farmers market. Every Wednesday, I would go to the WSE booth to answer a series of questions to receive tickets in hope of a prize. One of these questions was “Who sponsors the farmers market?” After several weeks of the workers at the booth pointing to the sign in the booth that had WSE printed on it, I finally memorized the name. One summer I heard that WSE was holding a Young Entrepreneurial Stewards camp where you would learn about business and running your own booth at the farmers market. I attended this camp, and it taught me how to handle money for a business, how to make a business sustainable, how to price items, and how to appropriately interact with customers. At the end of this camp, each attendee received a “Biz in a Boxx” that included tips for starting a business and a portfolio. I practiced the tips we learned at camp, such as being able to answer questions about your product and making your booth look presentable, before my first week at the market. Using all the new resources and skills I had learned and practiced, I started my own booth at the farmers market. I brought a small card table covered with a tablecloth and displayed my products on it each week. My business name was intended to directly tell people what I sold: Cards and Recycled Dog Toys.
One big point that I learned at camp was the idea of helping the local economy with your products. I remembered once seeing instructions for t-shirt dog toys in a book, and I modified it to my liking and made many different colors and priced them at one dollar each for the first week of the market. These dog toys were made by using old t-shirts that had stains, tears or other problems that made them unusable or unwanted. I cut strips out of the still usable parts of the material, and I braided them until I had a dog chew toy. I would get these t-shirts from family members or from the Community Closet free bin. The first year of the market, I made over $200.00 and I was thrilled. I attended several other YES camps the following summers, and I understood it was time to add new products. Through several summers, I began to add homemade hair bows and wooden décor and a yard dice game. One encouraging experience I gained was when an owner of a fairly large Livingston restaurant bought my handmade wooden dice from me. This individual encouraged me to continue with creative ventures and said that I was doing a great job as a business woman.
At one camp, I remember talking about how a catchy name was important for the business. I eventually changed my business name to Brianna’s Shop-A-Lot-Spot. The year that I changed my business name, I not only had people giving me compliments, but I would also have others come up to me saying they had been told by others that they got their products at Brianna’s Shop-A-Lot-Spot. My name allowed people to remember me and even for some to recommend the things I sold. Every week I recorded my expenses and sales in my portfolio that I had gotten at the first camp I attended. Each week, a YES booth cost $2.50 to teach us how to manage expenses. WSE did a great job teaching how to give back, not only to the local economy, but also to the community by using all the kids’ booth fees to donate to a local non-profit at the end of the season. It made all of us feel great knowing that our booths were helping others beyond ourselves in that way. One summer, I was able to use a percentage of my sales for a period of time to buy bed sheets for an African orphanage. The YES program always encouraged the participants to give back and to use their small business and money to make a difference.
At the holiday market in 2014, I was awarded the Sustainable Business Kid of the Year. I earned the prize of a season vendor pass along with some gift cards to buy supplies for the next year’s market. I was so excited to be given this honor. When high school years approached, my schedule began to shift, not allowing me to actively participate in selling at the market. Since entering high school, I have been able to speak at several YES clubs and camps under my mom who became the coordinator for this program. I spoke as an example of my business and taught the kids the things I learned through the program and through my experiences. I will never forget how this experience and program positively impacted me as not only a business woman, but also as a person.