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posted: 7/25/2014 11:00 AM

Youthful entrepreneurs sell their wares at Aurora farmers markets

Adolescent vendors sell their wares at Aurora farmers markets

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  • Phynea Mitchell of Designs by Phynea sells handmade earrings as part of the Young Entrepreneurs program at Aurora's farmers markets.

       Phynea Mitchell of Designs by Phynea sells handmade earrings as part of the Young Entrepreneurs program at Aurora's farmers markets.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • April Kochman of Aurora, who asked to sell her handmade jewelry at the Aurora farmers market two years ago, is now an experienced vendor who also sells at craft fairs.

       April Kochman of Aurora, who asked to sell her handmade jewelry at the Aurora farmers market two years ago, is now an experienced vendor who also sells at craft fairs.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Customers talk with April Kochman about the jewelry she has on display at the Aurora Downtown Farmers Market.

       Customers talk with April Kochman about the jewelry she has on display at the Aurora Downtown Farmers Market.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Phynea Mitchell of Designs by Phynea works on some of her handmade earrings while manning her booth at the Aurora Downtown Farmers Market.

       Phynea Mitchell of Designs by Phynea works on some of her handmade earrings while manning her booth at the Aurora Downtown Farmers Market.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

Phynea Mitchell tries to greet each person who passes her Designs by Phynea booth at Aurora's Downtown Farmers Market.

"Hello," the 12-year-old says, "would you like to check out my earrings?"

A good number of folks do. The girl says she sometimes makes more than $50 a morning selling her handmade earrings for between $2 and $5.

"I'm enjoy showing everyone my talents and (seeing) how much they love it,' she says.

Phynea is one of four young vendors selling at Aurora's farmers markets this summer as part of the city's Young Entrepreneurs program. The city waives the vendor fee and provides insurance for the young people, but the rest is up to them, market manager Dale Hazelwood says.

"We don't hold their hands," he says. "We are basically providing them a space. They have to do their signage, decorate their booth, market (their products)."

The young sellers are required to have an adult at their booth at all times. Phynea's mom, Alice O'Brien, accompanies her daughter and says she was impressed by how much Phynea was able to sell her first two times.

"It really opened a new world for her," O'Brien says. "I think it's a great program and more kids should get involved."

The program started two years ago when April Kochman, then 11, of Aurora, asked if she could sell her handmade jewelry at the farmers market. Hazelwood said officials thought about it and decided, why not?

April, now in her third year at the market, also sells at craft fairs and is an experienced vendor.

"Your display is everything," she says. "I used to keep my jewelry in little plastic bags. Now I have learned to have more vertical displays."

To attractively display her pieces, April says she's learned sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

"It's always good to have different investments to help you for the future," she says.

April sells her April Made Jewelry for prices from $5 to $10, as well as other items such as pillowcases. She saves half the proceeds for college.

She says she enjoys selling.

"I think it's really fun because you get to talk to others and see what they like to do," she says.

April's mom, Eve Kochman, says selling at the farmers markets has been a great experience for her daughter.

"They were so good to her," she says "They were so welcoming."

Kochman says she took a class in jewelry making a few years ago and both her daughters got interested in creating their own pieces.

"(April's) design eye is much more creative than mine," Kochman says. "She has a knack for it, a knack for making jewelry and a knack for working with people."

All of this year's young sellers make jewelry, but last year's entrepreneurs included some who created henna tattoos and homemade desserts.

The young people fill out applications like any other vendor, but are limited to selling four times a season at each market. Aurora has East and West markets, as well as the Downtown market, so the Young Entrepreneurs potentially could sell 12 times during the season.

Sydney Greifenkamp, 11, of Aurora sells bracelets, earrings and necklaces for $3 at Sydney's Boutique. Business initially was a little slow, but she still managed to sell quite a few things at her first market. Her second will be on July 26.

"I think I've learned social skills and counting money," she says.

The market's fourth young seller, Christina Dobra, 16, of St. Charles has Down syndrome. She has made jewelry since she was 7 and has work on display at Hoti Design Studio & Gallery in Elgin. At the farmers markets, Christina sells bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings at Christina's Crystal Creations.

"I love it," she says. "It makes people happy."

Her mom, Elaine Dobra, says Christina has sold at all three of Aurora's farmers markets, and even had one buyer come from one market to another to see her pieces. Elaine helps oversee the exchange of money, but Christina has done everything from design her own banner and business cards to reach out to customers, her mom says.

"You should see her face," Elaine says. "This is all new to her and she's enjoying it,"

Any young person with products to sell is welcome to apply to become a vendor, Hazelwood says. To request an application, contact (630) 256-3370 or farmersmarket@aurora-il.org.

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