This weekend hundreds of kids across Maine will launch businesses they've created themselves. Sunday is Build-A-Biz Day, and from downtowns to variety stores to front yards, kids will offer products for the public to peruse and purchase. It's part of a program to teach kids to become entrepreneurs, and even pint-size kids can turn adult-sized ideas into reality.
Running a business wasn't a completely foreign idea to ten-year-old Maiya Koloski. She has the kind of entrepreneurial aspirations a lot of kids don't realize they have.
"I mean, I always thought I'd end up running a lemonade stand or something," Koloski says. "But then I came up with this."
Koloski is sitting in her living room, holding an iPad that's opened to a page that displays her budding business.
"OMG Anxiety. It's a website for kids with anxiety like me. I have anxiety," she says.
Therapy has helped Koloski develop strategies to cope with her anxiety. She hatched the idea for her website while riding in a car - one of the places her anxiety crops up. She'll often play games on an electronic device as a distraction.
"I thought, well, if I can just play a regular game, and that can distract me, what if I play a game with strategies, so it can distract me and calm me down?" she says. "So, put those two together, and I came up with this idea."
Koloski's website OMG Anxiety, which is still in development, will have games she created herself to help kids whenever they're anxious or scared. Her favorite is a game called "Shake Your Fear." An angry-looking, albeit cute, orange creature appears on the screen. It represents fear.
"Your fear starts to grow," Koloski says. "You start to shake him to shrink him. And he's gonna keep growing and shaking. Once he gets really small, and you feel like you've extinguished your fear, you can stop."
Koloski designed her business after getting instruction and advice from Build-A-Biz, a nonprofit that wants to cultivate the next generation of Maine entrepreneurs. Hundreds of kids participate in Build-A-Biz, including 14-year-old Rya Morrill of Bangor.
"I'm the inventor and business owner of the PAT Pouch," Morrill says.
The PAT Pouch, which stands for 'Pet Aroma Therapy' is a tea bag filled with herbs that, when steeped in warm water, puts pets at ease. Morrill got the idea from her own dogs, who need some comfort when she leaves for the day.
"Normally when I don't use the product, I return home and they're stressed. And they bark," Morrill says. "But on the days that I do use the product, I get home and they're often times just very quiet, and I sometimes find my dogs asleep."
Morrill says Build-A-Biz taught her to create a business step by step. First, conceive a unique product that solves a problem, then design a prototype, and finally, write a financial plan. Morrill is in the final testing phase of PAT Pouch, but she's already pitched her business to a panel of judges and won a contest for her idea. She's already talking to vendors about carrying her product. Along the way, she says she's learned valuable skills.
"One main thing is just time management and budgeting," Morrill says. "Because spending too much money on one thing leads to not enough for another. It's just you have to balance and budget seriously so you make sure you get a profit and don't just break even."
Build-A-Biz founder Kate Gooding says kids make great entrepreneurs because they're often better risk-takers than adults. And there's a payoff no matter what future career they pursue.
"You need entrepreneurial skills whether you're gonna start your own business, or whether you're going to work for somebody else," she says. "Unless you want to stay in your base position when you get hired. If you want to work your way up in a company, you have to understand the different components of the business."
Maiya Koloski's father, Dan, says it's important for kids to see how a little inspiration and focus can produce tangible results.
"That people who build businesses aren't just people you read about in newspapers," he says. "They started with an idea and poured some energy into it, and it is real. And I think, especially in a place like Maine, we need more stories to show that it is real. It is possible."
Maiya says she feels a lot older since developing OMG Anxiety. As for where her entrepreneurial spirit may take her when she's an adult... that plan is still in the works.
"Well, obviously run this," she says. "And ... I'm not exactly sure. Still thinking about it."
Her website OMGAnxiety.com is due to launch this summer.