Turning tykes into tycoons

 Brisk business at Student Start Up market

Liam Eastman, 12, of Vanessa is one of 39 young entrepreneurs accepted into Norfolk County's Student Start-Up Program (SSUP) this summer. Eastman was one of eight vendors at a day-long market-open house east of Simcoe on Thursday. MONTE SONNENBERG / Simcoe Reformer

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Young people enrolled in Norfolk’s Student Start-up Program this summer are enjoying an increased level of support from the county.

During the first two years of the program, budding entrepreneurs pitched an idea to Norfolk’s economic development department. If it had potential, the county cut them a cheque for $200 and away they went.

At this point however, the county sees the value of working closely with participants and offering them hands-on support and mentoring.

“We want to make this a much more meaningful experience for them,” says Chris Garwood, an economic development supervisor with the county.

This mentoring was on display Thursday during a SSUP market-open house at the Venture Norfolk office on Highway 3 east of Simcoe.

Eight of the 39 young entrepreneurs accepted into the program this summer took advantage of the high-traffic location to hawk their wares. The latter ranged from vegetables and canned goods to unusual products and services such as recreational slime and henna tattoos.

Several of the participants were quick to point out that parents were playing a significant support role during this foray into the world of commerce and economics.

“It’s been really good,” said Liam Eastman, 12, of Vanessa, owner of Root To Table organic gardening. “It’s been more work than I expected but it has paid off.”

Eastman runs a busy, diversified business. He runs a vegetable stand along Brantford Road north of Delhi. Not only does he sell fresh produce, he also retails canned goods that he and his mother put together in the kitchen.

Liam is also available for dog sitting and dog walking. He also offers craft classes for kids where they make interesting things like attractive mobiles from common household items.

It makes for a busy summer. Liam’s silent partner — mother Chantelle Beaune — would have it no other way.

“I got him involved because he loves money,” Beaune said. “That’s No. 1 for sure.

“But I also wanted him to learn responsibility and learn his debits and credits. I want him to develop some accounting skills and learn the value of things. And I don’t want him sitting around all day playing video games.”

Katie Antonissen 17, of Delhi, owner of Sunshine Bracelets, has also received a hand from her parents.

Antonissen makes her own bracelets. With her parents as part of her negotiating team, Antonissen won shelf space this summer at Rumours Hair Design in Simcoe.

Antonissen is brimming with good ideas: Speciality bracelets in Delhi Raider blue-and-gold for Young Canada Day at the Norfolk County Fair; speciality bracelets as a shared fundraiser for breast cancer awareness and the Haldimand-Norfolk Women’s Shelter among them.

“My dream is to become a designer,” Antonissen said. “But that’s a long way down the road.”

Katie’s mother Cara Antonissen knew she had to get her daughter into a program like SSUP because she’s been clamouring to run her own business since she was a toddler.

This jives with an observation shared at Thursday’s event by Port Dover management consultant Gregg Brown, one of SSUP’s many corporate sponsors.

“Everyone should be doing this,” Brown said. “This is the future of the county right here in front of us. We want them to stay in the community once they are ready to get into business.

“You’re either an entrepreneur or you are not. If they have it by Grade 6 that should carry them through.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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