Youth experiment with DIY businesses

COSTA MESA — The city's youngest would-be entrepreneurs will host a luncheon Thursday to showcase the achievements of a Costa Mesa nonprofit's summertime business program.

These girls, ranging from 9 to 11 years old, are participating in the Youth Empowerment Self-Sufficiency (YESS) program. They will help Girls Inc. staff host the open house and luncheon event with community members from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The 10-week program focusing on business walked the budding entrepreneurs along the various steps from start to finish of launching and running their own companies — from applying for a business license to turning a profit in a competitive market.

The girls were asked to create a fictitious business and to find creative solutions for staffing, advertising and managing finances, program facilitator Nathan Roa said.

"The girls learn to be very independent," Roa said. "We not only ask them to come up with their own ideas, but to be responsible for what they do. They know that it's up to them to make [the business] a success."

The luncheon's first hour will feature the girls as they "set up shop" and compete with one another in categories such as Best Customer Service and Highest Total Revenue, while selling their products to event attendees.

Although the girls are encouraged to compete with each other, each business will be recognized with an award that highlights its strongest area of achievement, Roa said.

Although this is only the second year that there has been a luncheon, the YESS program has run every summer for about 10 years.

Roa said that this year's businesses include a ceramics shop, toy stores, a salon, a popsicle and ice cream shop and, for the first time, a business selling "all things water-related" from water balloons, water bottles and even a dunking station.

Last week, the girls began "selling" their products to each other and other children in the various Girls Inc. summer and afterschool programs, using play money as currency.

The children have been learning how to earn and save money with the pretend currency — named by the students as "candy cash," Roa said.

The children have been encouraged to look for the best bargains as consumers but also how to mark-up their products competitively to turn a profit as successful business owners.

"We want the girls to realize that if they give themselves the chance, that it is possible to open up a business and be successful at it," Roa said. "Maybe this is something they want to do in the future."

If You Go

What: The Y.E.S.S luncheon

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: 1815 Anaheim Ave., Costa Mesa.

Cost: Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by called (949) 646-7181.

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