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Young Maine Entrepreneurs Set Sights on Business Success
09/20/2013   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

We often hear a lot about how television and video games are stifling the creativity and impeding the personal growth of young people.  Rarely do we hear about kids' entreprenurial spirit. But at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, youths ranging in age from 11 to 21 had a chance to sell their wares today - to bargain, barter, and network like the business people they hope to become. Jennifer Mitchell has more.

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Originally Aired: 9/20/2013 5:30 PM

Just beyond the strong man booth, the pie cones and the Indian pudding, some business cards are changing hands, products are being held up for inspection, and business people - in braces - are driving hard bargains.

Woman's voice: "Is it $3s?"

Samantha: "The lip balms are $3."

Youth 3Sixteen-year-old Samantha Todd (left) is promoting her line of handmade, herbal beauty products from her booth at the Youth Enterprise Zone - or YEZ - a program run by the Maine Organic farmers and Gardeners Association. Todd is working hard to make a sale.

"And the coconut is really popular, because it's different. I almost priced it higher, but I decided not to. It's different than all the rest because it's made with coconut oil and cocoa butter," she says.

Todd has been making lip balms and hand salves since the age of 11. Her products are sold in three stores in southern Maine. By following a basic business plan, she's now making enough money not only to turn a profit, but also to donate a portion of her proceeds to a charity in Guatemala.

Not all the kids in the YEZ program will go on to own businesses. But program Director Sari Lindauer says all of the kids are learning something about the world of commerce.

"They're thinking about display, they're thinking about price, they're thinking about, 'How much do I spend? What's the cost for everything, and is it really worth my while?'" she says. "They'll look at, 'How long did I spend on this? What am I going to do next year to make it a little bit more doable for myself?' So they're becoming young business people."

Youth 2They're also learning what it takes to be self-employed. "I raise the sheep, I shear them, I wash it, card it, spin it, do the dying and knitting, and I just started making hay with another farm, so I'm doing that process too," says 17-year-old Noah Cimeno (left), whose booth is full of knitwear he's made himself.

Aside from rearing a flock of Icelandic sheep, Cimeno spends his time doing carpentry, producing vegetables and maple syrup, raising and selling several types of meat and eggs, and working at his woolens business. Surprisingly, his parents are not farmers, but by first grade, Noah had decided that would become one.  Since then, he's been building an agricultural empire.  And he's figured out how to make money.

"The farming part - you make no money," he says. "Where you make money is in resale and distributing. So, I know some farmers that will raise lambs and then in the spring they'll sell those lambs for $100. I raise my lambs, but I bring them to the slaughterhouse, and I pick them up, and when I pick up the meat I am then becoming a distributor by driving that meat to stores and businesses.  And that's where I can make my money."

But in an age where there's so much business competition online or from the big box stores, it's difficult to imaagine why kids want to start their own businesses. Their reasons are diverse. Some say they're saving up for college.  Some want to open a savings account, or they like the idea of working for themselves when they finish school. 

But most say they hope they can build their small enterprises into something bigge r- despite all the gloom and doom about the economy. Budding sheep baron Noah Cimeno puts it like this: "If you're interested in something, then you're just going to go for it."

Photos: Jennifer Mitchell


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