On April 29th, Acton Academy Jacksonville hosted the first Jacksonville Children’s Business Fair. Acton Children’s Business Fair is an event originally started by Acton Academy in Austin, TX, and is now popping up all over the country, hosted by Acton Academies and non-Acton-affiliated entrepreneurs alike. The purpose? Children ages six and up design a product and act as the CEO of a business, bringing to life every aspect of their businesses from logo design to marketing to production and sales. The idea is that if children can run a lemonade stand, why not challenge them to take it one or two steps further? If you work with (or have) children, you know that challenging them usually results in them rising to the occasion and surpassing all expectations. Here in Jacksonville, that’s exactly what they did.
Once we decided to host a fair, we had about six weeks to pull it together. We advertised all over the city and through social media, expecting that, with such short notice, we would have a modest fair our first year: five or seven businesses tops. Turns out, more children and families than we thought were prepared to rise to the occasion! A grand total of sixteen businesses, run by twenty-two children, were present at the event with products like original artwork, jewelry, baked goods, homemade plush animals, slime putty, coding software, and occasion cards. Quite the selection!
The Fair also has a competitive streak to it, as the young entrepreneurs are judged on originality, presentation, and business potential. Nine awards (three categories in each of three age groups) were presented to seven businesses. When I gave a recap of the Fair to a friend, he asked, “Did anyone cry?” At first, I sincerely did not understand his question and replied by asking why any of the children would cry. “Because they didn’t win and some won two awards,” he stated. We spoke awhile longer about it because I wanted to be sure he was very clear on the purpose and focus of the Children’s Business Fair.
The Children’s Business Fair is an opportunity. Not every child or every family will find their tribe in our Acton Academy, and we don’t expect that they would. However, children by nature are resilient and imaginative, and they crave experiences that translate directly to the world around them. When applying for a booth at the Fair, young CEOs are questioned about their product, costs, and business plans. They are disqualified from competition if their parents are caught making sales or running the show. They are handed sole responsibility; they are trusted to get the job done. At the end of the day, the pride felt from hard work, the joy on a customer’s face, and the comradery between young entrepreneurs outshone any award we offered to them.
We at Acton Academy Jacksonville could not be more proud of the young entrepreneurs and the families who participated in this year’s Fair. Nor could we be more grateful to the judges and sponsors who supported us. While we work to build a learning community within our studios, we also work to ensure our studios are engaged with the greater community and environment that surrounds them. See you at the next Jacksonville Children’s Business Fair!