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Chamber of Commerce hosts graduation for Junior CEOs

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The next generation of local entrepreneurs started their adventures in the world of business Friday night at a Hanford Chamber of Commerce event.

The chamber hosted a graduation ceremony for its 2022 class of Junior CEOs at the Carnegie Museum of Kings County.

“You can see that they’re just picking up on everything,” said chamber CEO and executive director Amory Marple. “They’ve learned a lot.

Nine elementary and middle school students have been participating in the program for the past month and local business owners have been teaching the students about various aspects of the business world during weekly workshops. The program will culminate at this week’s Thursday Night Market, where most of the children will open up shop and sell their goods and services.

After coming up with a business idea at the start of the program, each of the nine students were given $50 in start-up funds, provided by local sponsors — dubbed “investors.” Over the course of the four-week program, the students were taught things about marketing, branding, budgeting and even simple tasks like ringing up sales and writing receipts.

Marple said that one thing the program offers students — that school often doesn’t — is how to get a business off the ground. Generally, children are encouraged to become a doctor or lawyer but rarely are they taught how to open their own clinic or law firm, she said. Additionally, she wanted to empower the young entrepreneurs to not just learn the logistics of building a business but to do it in a way that was creatively fulfilling to them.

“They’ve taken to it quickly,” said Marple. “I think young minds already have a niche for being creative because they don’t have outside pressure yet … they’re free to be themselves and you can see it in their presentations.”

The students and businesses include:

Diana Chavez, Panda Crafting
Melody Dinkins, Brentwood Bakery
Aryana Haley, Ary’s Joy Shoppe
Jerzy Hanson, Spice Up Your Whites
Zoey Janik, Crazy Creations
Caleb Najera, Drenched Aquatics
Gavin Najera, Groovin Loomen
Noahlyn Medina, Sunshine Blues
Hayli Olivera, Breeze Beads
Among the class, it’s fashionable to be, well, fashionable as multiple students have gone into making accessories like bead bracelets and other jewelry, as well as tie-dyed clothing. Dinkins is the sole student going into the food business with baked goods while Caleb Najera has perhaps the most unique business in that he offers swimming lessons.

Haley offers shoppers a way to beautify their gardens and homes by offering succulents.

“I thought it was unique,” the 10-year-old said. “There aren’t a lot of shops in Hanford selling succulents this cheap.”

Haley is the CEO of Ary’s Joy Shoppe, with two Ps, she is quick to point out. Marketing is just one of the skills the class has learned, along with budgeting, inventory goals, pricing calculations and more.

“It’s very complicated,” Haley said. “It can be overwhelming, but when you break [business] down into segments, it’s OK and much easier.”

During the graduation ceremony, the students were given “unofficially official” business licenses so that they can open up shop Thursday. Most of the students will be on-hand at the chamber’s booth to sell their products. Sales will be cash only. The students get to keep all profits.

The program has been sponsored by College of the Sequoias, the local Soroptimist club, American Ambulance, West Hills College, Raising Cane’s and other local businesses and organizations.

“The reason the program has been so successful is the support from the community,” Marple said. “Getting sponsors was fairly easy, I think, because of what it was we wanted to do with this concept.”

The program is scheduled to return next summer.

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