Highlands 4-H Youth Mean Business 

by KATI LAWSON, UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County

Small, shaky hands charged by excitement worked to display crafts and products before customers started to enter the 4-H Kids Business Fair in December. 4-H members practiced their good manners, customer greetings, and change-counting skills with 4-H leaders and parents as they prepared to open the doors to their booths they rented as part of the first 4-H Kids Business Fair. 

Highlands County 4-H members participated in the inaugural 4-H Children’s Business Fair on December 2. Ten 4-H members prepared items to sell and rented a booth at the Bert J. Harris auditorium, where they sold products to community members and special guests. Vendors as young as 5 years old were able to experience a small-scale business and market to customers.

 Each vendor had an adult to help them set up and supervise transactions but were required to handle most of their booth sales on their own. They learned valuable skills like customer service, marketing, profit margins, and how to handle the many tasks related to running a business. Members kept all their earnings but learned about input costs by paying a $3 booth fee. The fees went back to the 4-H County Council club, which hosted the event. 

The Highlands community showed up in a big way for the pint-sized entrepreneurs. More than 150 shoppers came to purchase goods, resulting in four sold-out booths! 

Highlands County 4-H partnered with the Highlands Economic Development Council to invite special guests who visited each booth and asked members about their projects. Vendors excitedly told guests and customers about their hand-crafted products, which included ornaments, friendship bracelets, sun catchers, painted rocks, lemonade shake-ups, crocheted potholders, car air fresheners, key bracelets, and holiday crayons. 

 “Seeing the pride our county’s youngest entrepreneurs had for their businesses was inspiring to all who had a chance to visit the event,” said Sara Beth Rogers, Economic Development Manager for Highlands County Economic Development. 

“We are looking forward to being a part of this event in the future and supporting the program’s growth, as well as watching today’s youth become our community’s next CEOs.”

Special guests included Highlands County Commissioner Scott Kirouac, South Florida State College Dean of Applied Sciences and Technologies Brent Ferns, Children’s Museum of the Highlands Executive Director Kelly Dressel, and Kahn Citrus Management Chief Operating Officer Trevor Murphy.  

“As a business owner in Highlands County, I am encouraged to see the next generation show interest in running businesses themselves,” Murphy says. “I believe it is our job as community members to support these young entrepreneurs, and I will continue to support and encourage others to support the 4-H and their Children’s Business Fair and programming. “ 

After the fair, Murphy spoke to the members about his own business venture and how he was able to sell previously discarded citrus wood for barbecue grills. Each member walked away from the fair with money for their piggy banks, advice from businessmen and businesswomen, and a spark to start their own businesses one day.  

“I made more in two hours than I do in four months of earning allowance; when can I do it again?” asked 8-year-old Roan Lawson, 4-H member and lemonade shake-ups booth operator.

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