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Youth business market aims to empower Lawrence entrepreneurs ages 5 to 17

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Alia León has had a knack for entrepreneurship since she was around 8 years old.

Now 14, Alia recalls setting up makers markets with her friends at parks in Lawrence. They’d each prepare products or services — Alia’s usually being handmade jewelry or home baked cookies — and then invite family and friends to shop at their stands. More kids wanted to join, so Alia set her sights on creating an inclusive space.

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“I really wanted it to be a big thing where anyone could do it — not just my friends but anyone,” Alia said.

Last year, Alia and her mother, Lydia León, decided to organize the first Lawrence Youth Makers Market. By joining the Acton Children’s Business Fair’s national network, they received startup tools and were able to get a website up and running. The second annual market is set for this weekend.

Participants ages 5 through 17 create and develop a brand, a product or service, and a marketing strategy. During the application process, they set their prices and note business goals. Then at the one-day marketplace, they open up their shops to customers.

Although they may have assistance from their parents or adult mentors, youth business owners take the charge in interacting with customers and selling their work. They’re encouraged to be as independent as possible, Alia said.

Wren Herbert, of Wren’s Crafts, sells her artwork during the 2022 Youth Makers Market. (Contributed photo)

The market this year will host 40 booths with business owners selling jewelry, slime, fidget toys, beauty products, woodwork, ceramics, Christmas ornaments and more. Community members are encouraged to attend and explore a wide variety of creations.

Most participants live in Lawrence, but some are from surrounding areas, such as Baldwin City and Kansas City. The mother-daughter duo hopes to continue growing the annual event, accumulating more business sponsors and eventually offering cost-free accessibility for vendors.

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Lydia said she hopes the Lawrence Youth Makers Market will show young people in the community not only what is possible for their futures but also what they can achieve now.

“This is an opportunity for kids to experiment with being an entrepreneur,” Lydia said. “One of my goals just in general is giving kids the opportunity to find that sweet spot where their passions and their skills combine and for them to be able to experiment with seeing a fulfilling life in doing something that they love.”

The Lawrence Makers Market is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 at the Community Building, 115 W. 11th St. in Lawrence.

Cash is the preferred method of payment, but shoppers can also use a credit card to buy tokens worth cash.

As of Thursday evening, there were four spots still available for youth business owners interested in participating, Lydia said. There is a $5 registration fee per applicant.

Visit the market’s website, childrensbusinessfair.org/3186, to apply for an open spot or to learn more. Stay updated on the market’s Facebook page, Lawrence Youth Makers Market, and Instagram page, @lawrenceyouthmakersmarket.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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