by Heidi Riley
The Young Millionaires Program (YMP) provides youth aged 9 to 16 with an opportunity to start and operate their own business. The program offers training, mentoring, and ongoing support.
Youth develop and expand their entrepreneurial skills through a series of workshops exploring business fundamentals such as creativity and innovation, entrepreneurship, idea development, marketing, expenses and revenue, record keeping, customer service, and public speaking.
Applicants are approved based on the completion of their application, business idea, business plan, interest, and enthusiasm. They receive a non-repayable start-up grant of up to $150 dollars for sole proprietorship and up to $200 for a partnership.
The program is offered Island-wide and is delivered by six regional partners:
- Central Development Corporation – Central PEI
- Active Communities Inc. – Eastern PEI
- CBDC – West Prince Ventures – Western PEI
- RDÉE Ile-du-Prince-Édouard Inc. – Francophone program
- Startup Zone – Charlottetown Area
- Lennox Island Development Corporation
Cora Sonier took part in the YMP as a youth in school in 1992, the first year it was offered on PEI. She is now the program’s Provincial Coordinator.
“I learned so much – budgeting, taking care of my finances, and starting a business, which inspired me to help other kids acquire skills they may not even know they need,” says Cora.
She says the program is becoming more popular. “We had 11 invitations to events in 2021, 32 in 2022, and 78 this year.
“The kids come up with such great ideas and often exceed their goals in spectacular fashion. One business making bracelets called She Rocks PEI earned $18,000 last year. Another girl made $22,000 before becoming self-sufficient, which is our goal. One boy made enough money to buy his own boat and sailing lessons. The program is not just about teaching the skills. It gives them the means to follow their interests and dreams.”
“Our goal is to make sure that participants who may want to start a business in the future will not be surprised when they go into the business world someday,” says Nooshin Abedi, Administrative & Community Manager, Startup Zone, who delivered the program in the Charlottetown area.
“They will already know how to write a business plan and how to finance their business, develop a product, and deliver good customer service. These skills are important in the future, no matter what job you may have. Being in business is about solving a problem, getting paid, and getting better every day.
“I am an entrepreneur, and I would have loved to have been given the chance to join a program like the YMP and learn these skills when I was younger.”
Flory Sanderson, who operates Island Hill Farm, is one of the volunteers and sponsors of the YMP, and she also offered her farm as a venue for the participants to sell their products.
“I wish my children would have had a chance to be part of the program. They had great ideas, and they could have used the information gained through this program when they started their own business. The program teaches kids so many skills, and I am proud to be involved with it.”
“We are very grateful for Flory’s help, because she is helping the program become bigger and better,” says Nooshin. “She serves as an exemplary role model for our participants when it comes to actively engaging with and providing support to the community. She is a kind person, a supportive entrepreneur, and a great leader.”
Participants showcase their products
One of the events featuring YMP participants took place at Island Hill Farm in September.
Lincoln Caissie, 9 years old, goes to school at Spring Park Elementary School in Charlottetown. “My mom told me about the program and I wanted to get involved because I wanted to make money,” says Lincoln.
Lincoln created and is selling fidgets, including de-stress balls filled with beans, flour, or PEI sand, and necklaces, key chains decorated with brightly coloured beads that can be turned and played with, as well as food-grade silicone “chewies” to serve as a distraction.
“Fidgets calm the mind and body,” he says. “I struggle with ADHD, and sometimes I need something to help me relax and focus. I find the best thing is a fidget. My products can help people with autism, ADHD, stress, and anxiety.”
His mom Gillian is a teacher at West Kent Elementary School. “I often invite a representative from YMP into my classroom to tell students about the program and to encourage them to apply. Lincoln has been eagerly waiting until he turned nine so that he could participate in the program.”
Through starting his own business, called Juniper Fidget Co., Lincoln learned techniques for making jewelry and his other products. He also learned about marketing and engaging customers. “I use my pitch with every customer who walks by.
“My goal was to make $150, but I have made $500 so far. I plan to buy a computer. I would like to keep this business going for a while. I want to make more high-end products in the future using crystals and gold and silver fittings for the fidgets.”
Finley Campbell and Sophie Gallant are both 14 years of age and attend Birchwood Intermediate School. They are working on their business, Sopley’s Art Market, for the second year.
“I started making stickers for my family members for Christmas, and my mom said I should make it into a business with my friend Finley,” says Sophie. “The YMP helped us do that.”
Finley creates the designs and then they print them on sticker paper and use a Cricut cutting machine to cut out the stickers. They even produced a line of stickers featuring Island Hill Farm characters, including Farmer Flory Sanderson and some of her animals.
Finley and Sophie sell their products at various markets including farmers markets and Christmas craft fairs. You can also find their products at Coles Book Store in Summerside and Messy Crow Studio in Souris.
“The YMP is great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about starting a business or wanting to make some extra money,” says Sophie. “Through this program, I learned about public speaking and talking to people,” says Finley. “I also learned to use a Cricut to cut out our stuff.”
When asked if running a business takes a lot of time, Sophie says “running a business does take time and effort, but if you enjoy what you are doing, it is like no time at all.”
For a look at their line of products, search Sopleys Art Market on Facebook and Instagram.
Eric Likely, 12 years old, and Mary Likely, 11 years old, from Elliot River Elementary School started a business called Sibling Seedlings. They planted a garden in their back yard, and earlier this year they started selling young plants. Now they are selling their produce, such as beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and cucamelons.
“Our neighbour started with the program, and he did well, so we thought we would give it a try,” says Mary. They decided to join the YMP after they rejected the idea of picking strawberries to make money, and they give credit to their mom for her help. “Our mom has a garden and plants a lot, so she helped us start our garden.”
They say that starting the business taught them about planting crops, dealing with money, and talking to customers. “It is fun starting a business and earning money,” says Eric. “So far, we have made a couple hundred dollars.” “I would like to do this again next year,” says Mary.
Last year, Andrew Campbell-Eto, from Kensington Intermediate Senior High School, and his brother Zander from Queen Elizabeth Elementary School started a company called Rhubarb Brothers, making rhubarb lemonade.
“We have a huge rhubarb patch out behind the house,” says their mother Tammy. “When they tried to decide what kind of business to start, Zander asked if they could make something from that rhubarb.”
This year, Andrew is continuing to make rhubarb lemonade, while Zander, who is 11 years old, started Z.A.C.E. Printing, making 3-D printed key chains and taking custom orders.
“We found out about the YMP in school when they talked to our class,” says Zander. “I was inspired by YMP Coordinator Cora’s speech, and I wanted to earn some money. First, we had to plan out what to do and what our product would be. We came up with a recipe, made the product, and bought bottles and plastic caps.”
“It’s fun,” says Andrew, who is 13 years of age. “But it is a lot of work pulling out the rhubarb and making the rhubarb lemonade.”
Jack Nguyen started a business called Viet PEI selling jewelry and hand-crafted handbags made in Viet Nam. He moved to PEI a little over a year ago.
“My dad heard about the program and when the first workshop started, he encouraged me to join,” says Jack. “I joined because I wanted to know how a business is run and how to make money.”
Jack has sold his products at various events this summer and also sells online through Facebook.
Owen Roberts, 9 years old, from Sherwood Elementary School, joined the program because he wanted to start a business and make some money. He was inspired to start an ice cream sales business after seeing people selling Dickie Dee ice cream.
“I was going to cut lawns for the summer to make money, but my mom suggested I sell ice cream instead,” says Owen.
“We bought a battery, a cooler, and a cart to be pulled by my bike. I sell my ice cream at ball fields, soccer fields, and around town. Fishermen are my best customers.
“Expenses to set up the business were about $1,000, and I have made about $200 in profits so far. I learned that it is not that easy to make a dollar. But I still want to continue doing this next year.”
Griffin Murphy Rice, a 10-year-old from Charlottetown, embarked on his entrepreneurial journey through the Young Millionaire Program. Under this program, he established his business called “Litore,” which derives its name from the Latin word for “shore” or “beach.”
Griffin specializes in selling framed handwritten poems adorned with sea glass, shells, and other precious treasures from Island beaches. This summer, Griffin achieved a remarkable milestone by surpassing his initial sales target of $1,000. He accomplished this feat by actively participating in various markets and expanding his presence online.
He says that through the program, he learned some social skills. “And the best part was breaking my $1,000 sales goal. That was pretty great.”
This is Griffin’s advice for new young entrepreneurs: “Always attend every market. And if it’s not a good day, if you don’t make much money, you still got to go to the next market. It might be better.” You can find his products on Facebook by searching “Litore – Griffin’s Haiku poems, sea glass, shells, and more”.
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