Biz Kids

Appears in the October 2022 issue.

Charlotte Fallon sells garden stakes through her business, Sticks and Stones.

These were no sidewalk lemonade stands.

The next generation of entrepreneurs displayed its enterprising acumen at the Naperville Children’s Business Fair. Held at Naperville Central High School on August 6, the second-annual event showcased more than 80 businesses run by kidpreneurs ages 5 to 14. Products ranged from crocheted animals, greeting cards, and jewelry to cookies, activity kits, and homemade slime. “We had a great response our first year with 71 kids participating,” says Athena Chen, founder of the Naperville fair. “This year we had over 140 kids—so we nearly doubled our numbers.” 

Just as inspiring is that this event was launched by Chen, a junior at Naperville Central High School. She participated in a similar event in Oak Park when she was 11. “It was such an amazing experience—I was able to take my Etsy business to another level and personally interact with customers,” she explains. “I searched, and there wasn’t one in Naperville yet, so I thought why not host one myself and bring it to my own city.”

The fair’s planning team included (from left) Kailani Zhang, Athena Chen, Claire Yung,
and Dylan Swanson.

Chen pitched the idea to her business teacher Christine Bell, who helped with the planning. This year, Chen worked with a team of students from both Naperville Central and Naperville North High School who share her passion for business.  

At the fair, the participants’ excitement was palpable. First-timer Ethan Nie of Ethan’s Sushi began making sushi at home earlier this year. The 12-year-old enjoyed it so much, he signed up for a booth. “I’m the most unique business here,” he said. “Name another business making sushi right here on the spot.”

Ethan Nie (left) serves up sushi with help from his brother.

It was 9-year-old Sasha Ablaey’s first time participating at the fair, too. She sold cookies and handmade cutting boards. Like several others, she planned to donate some of her profits to charity. The Fallon sisters—Abigail, 12, and Charlotte, 10—used the fair to showcase their business, Sticks and Stones. They initially launched it on social media. Now they sell their unique garden stakes locally in four stores including Oswald’s in Naperville and the Collective in Lisle.

Ava Conners, 12, sells her crochet goods as Ava Grace Makes.

Chen hopes participants found the experience empowering. “Entrepreneurship taught me time management, basic finances, and customer-service skills,” she says. “If you start at a young age, you already have the entrepreneur mindset and are learning skills to help you be more prepared for the future. I also want adults to be impressed by how much kids can do.”

For information on next year’s fair, visit 

Photos by Julie Duffin