Flint, MI—Genesee County’s first-ever Children’s Business Fair kicked off in Kearsley Park Sept. 4 where young entrepreneurs sold their handmade products.

Mamai Art Gallery, a nonprofit that teaches children how to create their own businesses, sponsored the event. Its founder, Fiona Mamai, moved to Flint last month from Waltham, Mass. and immediately went to work organizing the fair.

Despite the short notice, 13 entrepreneurs from all over Genesee County— and some hailing from as far as Detroit and East Lansing— signed up to take part.

Fifteen-year-old Sumayah Elganainy of Grand Blanc and founder of Why Knot, makes people, animals, and cartoon characters out of Rainbow Loom rubber bands.

Sumayah Elganainy, 15, of Grand Blanc, sells keychains of people, animals, and characters made from Rainbow Loom rubber bands at the Genesee County Children’s Business Fair September 4, 2021 (Carmen Nesbitt| Flint Beat).

The rubber bands are typically used to make bracelets, but she said she figured she could learn to make people.

“I want to start a YouTube channel to teach others how to make them,” Sumayah said, adding that she had a good day of sales.

Sisters Gia and Akeia Flowers, both 15 and from Detroit, use the profits from their handmade jewelry business, Gia Keia Fashions, to donate food and other items to the homeless.

“We were just doing it for fun at first but then we just wanted to be a blessing to other people,” Akeia said.

Christian-Michael Crowley, 2, of Flint, shows off his participation trophy as the youngest entrepreneur to take part in the Genesee County Children’s Business Fair September 4, 2021 (Carmen Nesbitt| Flint Beat).

Gia said she hopes to add handmade clothing to their product line and eventually manage a few employees.

At the end of the event, Mamai told participants she was invested in their success.

“You guys have great ideas. You are great, I can’t explain it. So, I’m not letting you go,” she said. “If I do not see you guys booming after today, it will be crazy.”

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley also spoke at the event and congratulated the children.

“I want to encourage you, you future scholars and builders and entrepreneurs, to continue on this pathway,” Neeley said. “Someday the world is going to celebrate your dreams and your visions. You’re going to be celebrated. Continue to dream, continue to build.  Don’t be discouraged. And I’m here to be able to say to you, ‘thank you.’ Keep moving forward with your ideas.”

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley awards the “Best Overall Business” award to 15-year-olds Gia and Akeia Flowers of Detroit at the Genesee County Children’s Business Fair September 4, 2021 (Carmen Nesbitt| Flint Beat).

Neeley also handed out four awards to participants whose businesses stood out.

  • Most Original Business Idea: Forged in Splinters- Steven Baroski, 13, of Flushing
  • Highest Business Potential: Tukahirwa-Nicole Tukahirwa, 13, of Flint
  • Best Overall Business: Gia Keia Fashions: Gia and Akeia Flowers, 15, of Detroit
  • Best Presentation: Gas to Gate Fundraiser– Emily Larson, 13, of Flint

Mamai said she plans to make the fair an annual event. Those interested in participating in next year’s business fair can register online here.

Young entrepreneurs pose with Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley at the Genesee County Children’s Business Fair September 4, 2021 (Carmen Nesbitt| Flint Beat).
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Carmen Nesbitt

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...