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Discount Diva: Mind your own business, kids

Samantha Christmann

Isn’t it about time your third grader started earning their own keep?

Child labor laws are pesky things, but it’s never too early to get kids thinking about earning their own living and – better yet – about starting and running their own business.

Fortunately for you, there is a really cool program at SUNY-Buffalo State’s Small Business Development Center that can help you teach them just that: the KidBiz Market.

Open to children in grades 3 through 6, it starts with an hour-long training session this Saturday, where kids will get a crash course in entrepreneurship. They’ll hear about everything from financing and pricing to up-selling and customer service.

The program culminates with an open-air market on Bidwell Parkway in the Elmwood Village, where children put their new skills to work selling their wares, whether it’s cupcakes, plants, handmade jewelry, homemade soap or even their own used toys.

Andrea Lizak, who runs the program, said she is always impressed by the creativity of the kids who get involved. Some young entrepreneurs have sold rocks painted like ladybugs, homemade dog treats or original photographs turned into greeting cards. Some just played music and left their instrument case open to collect tips.

Kids learn how to borrow seed money from parents and pay it back, how to price products according to what the market will bear and how to earn repeat customers with great service.

“We teach them about ‘attention getters,’ so we have a lot of kids that will wear different cool hats or decorate their table with cool balloons, or make really great signs,” Lizak said.

Kids learn about supply and demand, too.

One year, a participant was selling ice cream treats on a hot day. His original selling price was $1, but when he saw how long his line of customers was, he raised the price to $2.

When all is said and done, kids get more out of the experience than just a better understanding of money and a hands-on experience in the business world: They get to be in charge for once.

They also learn how to communicate with people of different ages and acquire the quiet confidence that comes with a self-driven job well done.

“If they’re shy at the beginning, they’re not shy at the end,” she said. “They really start to talk to people and interact with other kids.”

The program has been running for more than 20 years. Last year, 150 students from 38 schools participated.

Saturday’s training session takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Bulger Communication Center South at SUNY-Buffalo State, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

The KidBiz Market will take place on June 16, July 7 and Aug. 4 at Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway behind the farmers market. Participants can choose to sell at one, two or all three dates.

Again, it’s open to kids in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades only.

Participants will need a guardian’s permission, a signed registration form, and their own selling supplies (including their own table) and must pay a $2 fee.

Registration forms can be sent by mail, or picked up in the the Small Business Development Center in Grover Cleveland 206 at SUNY Buffalo State, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

For more information, call 878-4030 or visit

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