CREATIVE KIDS & BOOTH BUSINESS: KIDS CRAFT FAIRS TEACH KIDS HOW TO BE BOSS
BY CRYSTAL NAY
With the holiday season now in full swing, craft fairs and holiday bazaars are popping up around the county, so that you can find that special gift for that even more special someone. Taking it a step further are two county events that support the entrepreneurial spirit of kids by offering them their own booths at these events.
There are two major opportunities for kids to have their own booths at a craft show here in Stanislaus County: Mod Shop and the Stanislaus County Library All-Kids and All-Teens Craft Fairs.
Each presents a different opportunity, but with the same goals in mind: to build confidence and entrepreneurial skills in children by providing them a forum to showcase their work. With the help of parental supervision, these young participants produce their own products, set up their own booths, market their wares, interact with customers, handle and manage money, and learn about what does or doesn’t sell in their market. It’s a quick study of the grander operations of running a business but scaled down to a manageable operation for a child.
Now in its fifth year, Modesto’s Mod Shop— a November art and craft fair that occupies the streets of downtown Modesto, filling the sidewalks and shops of J Street between 10th and 13th Streets— kids are given a special section of the event, though they still participate alongside the adults, and for a third of the price of an adult single booth. Inside the Mistlin Gallery is an entire room of younger entrepreneurial artisans with works and goods ranging from lip balms to succulent plants, jewelry and on-the-spot drawings to candles and reusable totes. With 17 youth participants, Mod Shop participants are selected with consideration of the goods offered, and with preference given to those who have not yet participated in the event, or did not participate the previous two years.
“We’re just all about providing a hand up,” says Kate Trompetter, one of Mod Shop’s founders. “We knew from our personal experience, either in community or with our own children, that there was a budding Maker scene among our youth. So, why not provide them the access they might not have to the market.”
Stanislaus County Library agrees with this sentiment, having hosted their own children’s craft fairs for an unofficial 40 years or so, and adding a teens craft fair five years ago.
“It’s all about the kids. We want to give kids who like to make their own stuff a forum in which they can sell their own stuff,” says Christin Hutsell, Children’s Department librarian. “It’s a good place for kids to learn to be a business person without having to pay for a booth.”
Featuring the All-Kids Craft Fair in October, and the All-Teens Craft Fair in June, applications are accepted during certain time periods at any of the Stanislaus County library branches. The main event, however, is held at the main branch in Modesto, with the colorful and enthusiastically displayed booths lining the outside of the library.
Much like Mod Shop, the All-Kids and All-Teens Craft Fairs get a lot of attention, from both artist participants and shoppers alike. Receiving an average of 120 applications for child participants, this year Stanislaus Library had 160 participants signed up before all the applications from all the branches were received.
“The families are always really excited and very grateful for the opportunity,” says Hutsell. “People who participated when they were kids now bring their own kids.”
The response to kid-driven craft fairs has been favorable, with support coming from families and the community as a whole. The talent at these events is also impressive, with kids demonstrating either their artistic and crafty prowess, their business savvy, or both.
“They’re very creative,” says Trompetter. “Aside from making money, it clearly helps them to feel confident in their skill and has provided them to share a space in a community with really talented, supportive adult Makers.”
“It’s a great place to start out. These kids get to see if this is what they want to do. They’re trying out a line of work,” says Hutsell.
Each event holds true to its goals of fostering a supportive and creative space for children to develop their entrepreneurial skills. “Every year, we plan to sustain, create, and surprise,” says Trompetter, “For now, continuing to include kids as part of our plans is a commitment we will continue to make… If the opportunity inspires a few to continue with their craft into adulthood, we’re winning.”