KINGSPORT - The first ever Kids Business Expo took place Friday morning at the Meadowview Conference Resort and Convention Center. Nearly 40 high school and middle school students were on hand showing off their budding entrepreneurial skills, selling a variety of homemade items, from pastries to jewelry, clothing and slime, to fishing flies and card games.
The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce devised and sponsored the event and held it during its monthly Fourth Friday breakfast. Lora Barnett, the executive director of workforce development and government relations at the chamber, describes the expo as being “a science fair for entrepreneurs.”
“We wanted to get the kids thinking of what it would be like if they owned their own business,” Barnett said.
Given the turnout of Friday’s event, the expo could very well become an annual event, something chamber officials have discussed. Barnett said when the idea was initially pitched, she would have been happy if 10 students showed up.
“We had 39 who set up today,” she said. “We didn’t know how well received it would be and we were blown away by their creativity and their thought process. They really embraced it.”
Each of the students was given a table to promote and sell their wares following the monthly breakfast. From there, it was completely up to the students of how they would decorate the table and display their wares.
Some tables were fairly basic with just display and pricing boards, while others used table cloths, decorations, matching shirts, multiple signs and colorful balloons. Everything was original and created by the students. Nothing bought or resold could be brought in for expo, Barnett said.
Students hails from Robinson and Sevier middle schools, Dobyns-Bennett High School, Colonial Heights Middle School and even one girl from Daniel Boone High School, who heard about the event and reached out to the chamber to ask if she could join in.
Judges scored each student in three categories – most original idea, highest business potential and best presentation – with winners at both the middle school and high school level. Barnett said the winners received a one year courtesy chamber membership, business counseling with the chamber, an opportunity to set up at the Kingsport Farmers Market seasonal opening and a promotional video to market their business.