Entrepreneur, 14, Launches Childrens Business Fair In Naperville – Patch.com

NAPERVILLE, IL — At just 14 years old, Athena Chen can already boast that she’s got a few years of running her own business under her belt. In fact, she calls her extensive entrepreneurial background a “life-changing experience.”

Chen, a sophomore at Naperville Central High School, started her Etsy shop when she was 11. Now, Chen is pouring her passion for entrepreneurship into the first-ever Naperville Children’s Business Fair, which will bring more than 60 business owners from age 5 through 14 to Naperville Central on Aug. 7.

Chen told Patch she’s a “very artistic person” who enjoys crafting, so she started making polymer clay charms a few years ago. Impressed by her handiwork, Chen’s parents encouraged her to sell the jewelry she made on Etsy.

Find out what’s happening in Naperville with free, real-time updates from Patch.

At first, Chen was overwhelmed by the challenge. She told Patch she thought it would be “too hard” to run her own Etsy shop.

Nevertheless, she launched PurpleFishArt. After about six months, Chen says, “Orders started rolling in and things started picking up from there.”

Find out what’s happening in Naperville with free, real-time updates from Patch.

Now, PurpleFishArt has expanded to sell everything from clip art and slime to colorful sprinkles and inspirational stickers.

In that time, Chen’s knowledge of the business world has expanded as she’s learned to master social media marketing, search engine optimization and customer service.

Chen told Patch she has enjoyed learning so much through running an online business. “I’m not really in this business for the money because slime isn’t an especially profitable industry,” she said.

Still, she has been frustrated by how few business fairs were available to youth entrepreneurs. Chen said she longed for more in-person events, especially after attending a children’s business fair in Oak Park when she was 12.

“I figured, why not host one myself,” she said.

Chen teamed up with Christine Bell, who teaches business at Naperville Central High School and became a client for students enrolled in an advance marketing course at the school. Bell and the marketing students helped Chen bring her dream to life.

Chen said the Naperville Children’s Business Fair will be set up like a farmer’s market outside of Naperville Central, with dozens of young business owners selling goods and services at tables throughout the event. Shoppers can browse:

  • Homemade dog treats
  • Baked goods
  • Handmade note cards
  • Resin crafts
  • Paintings
  • Jewelry
  • More

Chen said she hopes the business fair will inspire other young children.

“Being a business owner at a young age can be a great experience for younger kids to have,” Chen said, noting that business classes and boot camps are often only available to middle and high school students.

Chen said the feedback she’s received from participating young entrepreneurs has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

She told Patch some of the children have been investing in stocks to raise money and reading business books for inspiration ahead of the Naperville Children’s Business Fair.

“One pair of entrepreneurs is from a town that’s pretty far away, but they just wanted to do it because their parents say they love business,” Chen explained.

There will also be a competitive portion to the business fair, Chen told Patch. Local business owners and teachers will judge participants for best business idea and best presentation, choosing one winner in each category for three different age groups.

In the future, Chen said she’s hoping to make the Naperville Children’s Business Fair an annual event. After high school, Chen has her sights set on pursuing a career as an entrepreneur and CEO of a business.

But, she acknowledges, she’s still got plenty of time to decide.

She said, “That might change because my interests are changing, but that’s what I want to be right now.”

What: Naperville Children’s Business Fair

When: Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Where: Naperville Central High School, 440 Aurora Ave., Naperville

Click the link to learn more about Naperville Children’s Business Fair.