Riya Parikha proudly introduced herself as the CEO of 20 Pencils, a company that sells packs of everyday pencils with the mission to spark the imagination of kids.
On Saturday, she pitched her product to a group of potential customers who were twice her size.
Riya is only 7 years old, but she recited the mission of her company as easily as saying the ABC’s. The Encinitas Country Day student started her business back in July — plenty of time to practice and print business cards packaged with her merchandise.
Her business was one of 25 kid-run enterprises at the first annual San Diego Children’s Business Fair at Liberty Station.
This outdoor marketplace offered San Diego County kids ages 5 to 16 a place to sell their own product or service to the community. At most tents, parents were standing by, but it was the kids who were in the driver’s seat.
These budding entrepreneurs eagerly shared how they made their products and showed off their brands on hand-made signage. Some explained that they took out a loan — from their parents, of course — to start the business and would be paying them 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/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Riya Parikh, 7 founder and CEO of “20 Pencils” took a handful of her products and walked up directly to potential customers to offer her packaged pencils for sale. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Riya Parikh, 7 founder and CEO for 20 Pencils, was among the young entrepreneurs taking part in the first annual San Diego Children’s Business Fair held at Liberty Station. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Shane Guderian, 4 and Laylani Clowry, 5 were assisted by Jen Guderian to serve and sell a fresh glass of lemonade to Tristan Martin, 8. The children were running Sprout Studio Lemonade Stand at the fair. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Laylani Clowry, 5 sliced lemons for their next batch of lemonade from Sprout Studio Lemonade. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Bristyl Garvin, founder and director of The Treehouse Academy at Liberty Station, organized the event to give children the opportunity to have hands-on experience in building their own businesses. She previously worked at a school in Texas where they held a children’s business fair, and she wanted to bring that to the kids of San Diego.
Garvin said many of the participants were students from her school, which serves kids ages 4 to 11, where they have been learning about entrepreneurship — from how to analyze finances on 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 shop in Hillcrest, to learn about the ups and downs of starting a business.
“Over and over again, the business owners that we met with said … if your goal is to make money, then you’re never really going to be satisfied, because owning your own business is so much work,” she said. “So what your goal actually needs to be is 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 to 6 were selling lemonade in an assembly line that had one pair of tiny hands scooping the ice, the next pouring the drink, someone slicing lemons (with a child-safe knife) and another counting the money.
Down the promenade, there were iced cookies with animal faces, homemade flower-shaped soap, digital artwork — you name it and these kids were selling it.
Sofia Jones, 10, sold out of her 36 brownies in the first hour, which her mom, Victoria, said is likely a result of her daughter’s smart pricing strategy. Sofia decided to charge $3 for one brownie and bundled two for $5 because people usually have a $5 bill on hand, 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 customers’ hair wild colors. Williamson said she was impressed by how well the fair’s young entrepreneurs engaged with customers.
Vihaan Bhardwaj, 12, and his 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 washing over the beach.
Vihaan launched the business in a class at High Tech Middle school in Point Loma, and his sister, who loves art, soon joined in. They sold their boards and colorful paintings on canvas, which ranged from $15 to $55, with 10 percent of their proceeds going to the Sanshil Foundation’s BAGIYA program to provide educational opportunities for underserved students in India.
While these kids were savvy and had game plans to make money, this was no “Shark Tank.” In fact, the Bhardwaj siblings shared a table with Penelope and, after handling a transaction, they asked her for some change. Penelope opened up her blue and green toy cash register to exchange dollar bills with her neighbors as both businesses closed a successful day.
Each of their businesses brought in more than $200 at the fair.
Tvisha and her brother agreed that true success in business can’t be measured by profits but instead comes from being satisfied with the work.
“If you like think of it as a certain amount of money, you’ll first say $10,000 will be success then … you’re saying ‘no, no, it should be $100,000,’” Vihaan said. “So you really can’t base your success off of monetary stuff.”