Riya Parikha proudly introduced herself as CEO of 20 Pencils, a company that sells packs of everyday pencils with a mission to spark children’s imaginations.
On Saturday, he presented his product to a group of potential customers twice his size.
Riya is only 7 years old, but she recited her company’s mission as easily as saying the alphabet. The Encinitas Country Day student started her business in July, plenty of time to practice printing business cards packaged with her merchandise.
His company was one of 25 child-led businesses at the first annual San Diego Children’s Business Fair at Liberty Station.
This outdoor market offered San Diego County children ages 5-16 a place to sell their own product or service to the community. In most of the tents, the parents were waiting, but it was the children who were in the driver’s seat.
These budding entrepreneurs enthusiastically shared how they made their products and showcased their brands on handmade banners. Some explained that they took out a loan—from their parents, of course—to start the business and that they would get the money back after the fair.
Darielyz Talavera, 11, owner of D’Cookies displayed several of her custom decorated sugar cookies at the San Diego Children’s Business Fair. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Riya Parikh, 7 founder and CEO of “20 Pencils” took a handful of their products and directly approached potential customers to offer her packaged pencils for sale. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Riya Parikh, 7 founder and CEO of 20 Pencils, was among the young entrepreneurs who participated in San Diego’s first annual Kids’ Business Fair held at Liberty Station. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Shane Guderian, 4, and Laylani Clowry, 5, were assisted by Jen Guderian in serving and selling a glass of fresh lemonade to Tristan Martin, 8. The kids were running the Sprout Studio Lemonade Stand at the fair. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Laylani Clowry, 5 sliced lemons for her next batch of lemonade from Sprout Studio Lemonade. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Bristyl Garvin, founder and director of The Treehouse Academy at Liberty Station, organized the event to give kids the opportunity to get hands-on experience building their own businesses. She previously worked at a school in Texas where a business fair was held for children and she wanted to bring that to the children of San Diego.
Garvin said many of the participants were students at his school, which caters to children ages 4 to 11, where they have been learning about entrepreneurship, from how to analyze finances in a spreadsheet to getting a loan to start a business. . They also connected with local businesses, including Cardiff’s Seaside Market and Dixie Pops ice cream parlor in Hillcrest, to learn about the ups and downs of starting a business.
“Time and time again, the business owners we met with said…if your goal is to make money, then you will never really be satisfied, because owning your own business is a lot of work,” he said. “So your goal really should be to do something that’s meaningful to you, something that makes a difference, something that you’re passionate about.”
At one booth, a class of Treehouse Academy students ages 4-6 were selling lemonade on an assembly line that had one pair of tiny hands scooping out the ice, the next pouring the drink, someone cutting lemons (with a knife safe for children) and another counting the money.
On the boardwalk, there were ice cream cookies with animal faces, homemade soap in the shape of a flower, digital artwork — you name it, and these kids were selling it.
Sofia Jones, 10, sold her 36 brownies in the first hour, which her mother, Victoria, said was likely the result of her daughter’s clever pricing strategy. Sofia decided to charge $3 for a brownie and packed two for $5 because people often have a $5 bill handy, her mother explained.
Debbie Williamson came to the fair to support her granddaughter, 8-year-old Penelope Sparks, who was selling artwork and spray-painting wild colors for customers’ hair. Williamson said she was impressed by how well the fair’s young entrepreneurs interacted with customers.
Vihaan Bhardwaj, 12, and her 11-year-old sister, Tvisha, started a business called Xquisite a couple of months ago making serving boards out of reclaimed wood with resin designs that look like waves lapping on the beach.
Vihaan launched the business in a class at High Tech High School in Point Loma, and his sister, who loves art, soon joined. proceeds go to the Sanshil Foundation’s BAGIYA program to provide educational opportunities to underserved students in India.
While these kids were smart and had game plans to make money, this was no “shark tank.” In fact, the Bhardwaj brothers were sharing a table with Penelope and, after managing a transaction, they asked her for some change. Penelope opened her toy blue and green cash register to exchange dollar bills with her neighbors as both businesses closed on a successful day.
Each of their businesses raised more than $200 at the fair.
Tvisha and her brother agreed that true success in business is not measured by profit, but by being satisfied with the job.
“If you like to think of it as a certain amount of money, first you’ll say $10,000 will be a hit and then… you’ll be saying ‘no, no, it should be $100,000,’” Vihaan said. “So you can’t really base your success on monetary things.”