Oak Park kids are ready to share their creations with the world — and make a little money, too — at the First Annual Oak Park Children’s Business Fair, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 4, at Pilgrim Congregational Church.
It was a bit of serendipity that prompted Oak Parker Jenni Airato to organize the fair; she was on Facebook one day and saw an ad encouraging her to launch the event.
Airato said her oldest child is a student at Longfellow Elementary School, and the school sponsors a similar type of event annually for second-graders. The older students sell to their younger cohort and donate the proceeds to charity, she said.
“The topic sparked a conversation in our house and what it takes to run a business,” she said. “It inspired me to say, ‘What if we do something for all the kids in Oak Park?'”
That’s when the advertisement from Acton Academy popped up on her Facebook feed.
Acton Academy, a private school with campuses across the country, promotes free-market principles in a Montessori-type setting. It is connected to Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, a conservative think-tank in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
After seeing the advertisement, Airato said, she and her daughter sent a video making their case for why they wanted to hold the fair, and then they were up and running.
Finding vendors was the easy part.
She said the fair will feature about 50 “kidrepreneurs” at 45 tented booths in the Pilgrim parking lot. Handbags, bath bombs, handmade jewelry, sculpture, popsicles and chocolate-covered pretzels are just a few of the items available for sale, she said.
Airato held a launch event earlier this month for the vendors, featuring various entrepreneurs in and around Oak Park to discuss with the fledgling business titans their own business experience.
Vendors at the fair range in age from 6 to 14. The kidrepreneurs will be entered to win a juried contest with a chance to win a $25 gift card, Airato said.
Yinka Ogunseitan, 14, who enters Oak Park and River Forest High School this year as a freshman, is selling hand-sewn handbags and zipper bags at the fair. “I expect to have 25 of the smaller ones and eight of the larger ones,” she said.
Ogunseitan said it is her first time selling her work, and she’s excited.
“I started [making them] when I was young — we started going to classes — after that I still liked to sew on my own time,” she said, adding that she gets a feeling of satisfaction seeing her creations come to life. “It’s nice when you finish something that takes a while,” she said.
Jocelyne Adkins, mother of one of the vendors, said she heard about the fair from an Oak Park moms email group she subscribes to and showed it to her son, Joel.
Adkins said her son makes small sculptures of animals and insects — bees, cows, lobsters, bears, and more — out of a Crayola product called Model Magic. Joel turns 14 later this year and is entering OPRF as a freshman this fall.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the children,” she said, noting that it puts a spotlight on their “innovation, ideas and savvy.”
Airato said the vendor response in the first year tells her she’s onto something with the fair and plans to hold another one next year.
“My goal is to make it an annual thing in Oak Park,” she said.