Teen and tween entrepreneurs are invited to a July 29 business expo in Wenonah Park

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t come with a minimum age. With children and teens being among the most outside-the-box thinkers, their imaginations can lead to untapped ventures, enriching both themselves and their communities.

With an eye toward fostering innovative business ideas among Great Lakes Bay Region youths, the Youth Entrepreneurship Expo is coming to Downtown Bay City.  Hosted by Kids Rule Now! Inc., the event takes place in Wenonah Park, 111 Center Ave., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 29.

No adults need apply. Exhibitors must be between 10 and 17 years old.

Featuring live music, food, and vendors, the expo is the brainchild of Rhonda Alexia Webb, the Founder and Director of Kids Rule Now!, and Ali Smith, a Bay Area Board Director and Realtor at Ayre Rhinehart Bay.

Kids Rule Now! Inc is a nonprofit organization Webb founded in 2016. The nonprofit focuses on helping youth entrepreneurs realize their dreams and achieve success through conferences, business events, bazaars, and expos.

Traditionally hosting these events in Saginaw, Webb is now ready to expand opportunities for herself and her ‘kid-preneurs’ in other communities.

Webb’s journey began in 2013 when she was researching youth entrepreneurship in an effort to ready herself for an after-school program she wanted to teach. The program centered around character education. Her plan was to use young entrepreneurs as speakers and inspiration for the youth in the community. Webb was unsure of where to start and decided to begin with a conference.

“In the process of researching the young entrepreneurs, I realized that there were certain characteristics they displayed even in their youth, that were similar to what an adult entrepreneur would experience,” explains Webb. “There’s no kiddy entrepreneur. I knew I had to do something a little more attractive than telling them ‘I’m going to teach you about character education.’ ”

Shortly after the success of the conference, the annual Kidposium was born, hosting its first official event at Thompson Middle School in 2016.

Since then, the Kidposium has grown, becoming an annual event hosted at Saginaw Valley State University, with successful keynote speakers, and breakout sessions hosted by young businessowners geared toward young entrepreneurs.

“Since 2016 I have done a Kidposium annually,” Webb recalls. “I’ve built it more and more on the entrepreneurship model each time.”

The Kidposium quickly became a doorway to connect kids with the concept of youth entrepreneurship and encourage them to be brave and take risks.

Webb’s desire for a broader outreach is bringing Kids Rule Now! to Bay City.

“I don’t want to be stagnant,” says Webb. “Youth entrepreneurship is worldwide and I want to impact different cities and regions.”

The Youth Expo is free for all attendees and open to the public. Youth vendors between ages 10 and 17 may register their business and reserve a table for $45 before June 15. Registration after June 15 costs $50.

Prospective vendors may register online at the Kids Rule Now website or on its Facebook page.

Webb stresses to the new and first-time youth entrepreneurs that presentation is everything.

“Presentation is key,” says Webb. “Make sure it’s visibly appealing. There are a lot of creative ways to set up a table.”

However, Webb’s biggest piece of advice is to simply show up. Being present and mingling amongst peers is among the most conducive, enriching experiences for future business owners.

“It’s not going to be perfect and people don’t expect it to be,” Webb says. “Just show up, have something to sell, and have fun.”

Vendors are expected to stay throughout the duration of the expo and are encouraged to visit the other vendors. Youth vendors are allowed the help and support of parents or older relatives and are advised to bring a secure cash box with money to make change.

Attendees also are encouraged to bring cash or debit cards to purchase any products that grab their attention.

The youth vendors will be set up under the pavilion at Wenonah Park. At past expos, Webb has seen everything from cookies, makeup, and jewelry, to pet supplies, slime, and painted rocks.

One thing that never changes is she is always blown away by the creativity of the young entrepreneurs.

“It gives the kids the opportunity to be crafty,” says Webb. “Kids are crafty anyway, they just don’t think about, ‘Not only is this craft fun to make, but there might be a customer out there for it.’ ”

Guests are also welcome to enjoy live music from The Major Chords for Minors, a nonprofit organization that provides musical mentorship for at-risk youth, as well as food trucks from Detroit, Saginaw, and the surrounding area.

There are sponsorship opportunities to aid in the cost of the expo. If interested, contact Ali Smith at ali.smith@arhousebay.com.
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