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2021 Amazing Kids honoree Azalea Lopez turned her struggles to focus during online school into a business.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Azalea Lopez, a fifth-grader at Rosedale Elementary School in Hillsboro, runs Zae Zae Fidgets & Things, a fidget toy company.When the COVID-19 pandemic first shifted school online, Azalea Lopez was having trouble focusing.

Lopez, a Rosedale Elementary School fifth-grader, has dyslexia, which has always made concentrating difficult.

Coupled with two siblings at home and remote learning, classwork was a struggle.

To help Lopez focus, she started using fidgets — small, tactile toys such as stress balls, which are often used to manage restlessness and anxiety.

"They just helped me focus," Lopez said while holding a fidget with a plastic woven tube around a marble. School "was really hard and they helped me concentrate."

Soon after noticing their benefits, Lopez started collecting fidgets.

Now, her hobby has turned into something bigger.

After helping her aunt and uncle — who own Felton & Mary's Artisan Foods — sell their products at local farmer's markets, Lopez was inspired to start her own business.

One day, Lopez's mom, Rebeca Aguila, saw her daughter focused on writing something in her journal.

"Me being nosy, I asked what she was writing," Aguila said, adding that she saw "Business" written at the top of the page.

"A business plan for an 11-year-old, I thought that was pretty cool," Aguila said.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Azalea LopezIn early March, Lopez started Zae Zae Fidgets & Things, a fidget toy company, which she launched after doing her own research and using her own money.

"They were helping me during school so I thought they might help other people," Lopez said.

Aguila said she is just there to support her daughter, who runs the business and preps the orders.

"She's the boss," Aguila said. "We'll go to the post office, and if we do local deliveries, she comes with me."

The startup has 15 different fidgets to choose from, which Lopez said are great for both kids and adults.

Aguila said her daughter completed about 80 orders in about one month. Lopez used some of her earnings to start a website and she's an active poster on social media, which she uses to promote her business and the benefits of fidgets.

Orders have come in from across the country, including Missouri, New Jersey and even Hawaii, Aguila said.

Several local companies have ordered Lopez's fidgets to put in "welcome back" packages for workers returning to the office as coronavirus cases decrease, Aguila said.

After not selling all of the Easter fidget packages she prepared, Lopez wanted to give them away to people as holiday gifts so she took them to a park and passed them out to people, Aguila said.

"A charity thing that she really wants to push forward is to deliver some fidget packets to foster kids in Hillsboro," Aguila said.

As the weather gets better, Lopez hopes to sell her fidgets at pop-up markets and farmer's markets in the area, Aguila said.

As to her own school work, Lopez said she was happy to return to in-person school for the first time in more than a year in early April. She loves math, especially the way it can help her think about reading and writing for word problems.

She was nervous but happy to see her friends again, Lopez said.

In yet another new learning environment, with pandemic safety measures in place, having a couple of her own fidgets with her helped ease the stress and pressure to focus in class, Lopez added.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Hillsboro's Azalea Lopez shows off one of the fidgets she sells through her business, Zae Zae Fidgets & Things.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in our 2021 Amazing Kids special publication, inserted into newspapers the week of May 24, 2021. Find a digital version of the full publication on our website. This profile of Azalea Lopez is sponsored by Cornell Estates Retirement & Assisted Living.


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