Young entrepreneurs shine at West Linn's Summer Market
With around 70 vendors selling their goods each week, this year's Wednesdays in Willamette Summer Market was bigger than its predecessors. However, some of the vendors were a bit smaller than usual.
Nine local kids established booths of their own at the market, selling goods like rocks, flowers, jewelry and even secondhand clothes.
Historic Willamette Main Street Executive Director Rebecca Hollenbeck said hosting the young entrepreneurs at this year's market was a success, and she hopes to add more in the coming years. The last market of the season was Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Dustin Peterson, 11, said selling agates, geodes and crystals from his booth Dustin Rocks taught him the value of money, particularly because he needs a new saw.
Dustin said the 12-inch saw he uses to cut open his rocks broke earlier this year, so he's now in the market for a new one. However, because customers have told the young rock seller they'd like to buy rock bookends, Peterson said he'd like to purchase a more expensive 24-inch saw.
Dustin said he found most of the rocks he sold along the Oregon coast, in Central Oregon and even across the river at Clackamette Park. However, he bought some of his bigger rocks and geodes, which come from Morocco.
"I don't want to drive out to Morocco," he said.
The young salesman has been interested in rocks for as long as he can remember and got his start in selling several years ago with a small stand at the end of his street.
"I had a lot of rocks in my room and my mom told me, 'You need to start selling them. You have way too many,'" Dustin said.
Dustin was the first young entrepreneur to join the market two years ago. He said he did not return in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, but was glad to bring Dustin Rocks back this year.
Hollenbeck said Dustin has now joined Historic Willamette's Market Committee of volunteers and vendors.
Just down the block from Dustin Rocks, another 11-year-old entrepreneur sold handmade jewelry.
Earlier this year Leah Jansen began making earrings out of yarn. After honing her craft, she was selling her handmade jewelry at her market stand Golden Puff.
Leah said she's always loved jewelry and specifically earrings. Even before she had her ears pierced, she wore clip-on earrings.
The crafty tween was playing with yarn and eventually made her first puff ball earrings, which would later become the signature piece at Golden Puff. At the time, she had no intention of selling them, but a friend noticed the ones she had on and asked if Leah could make another pair for her.
Leah admitted her first puff earrings weren't of the highest quality, but said she learned from her mistakes after some of them broke. Her sister and dad eventually suggested she sell the jewelry.
Leah spoke with some friends at Willamette Christian Church who had booths of their own at the market and were willing to share advice with the young entrepreneur.
Knowing she'd likely need more product to sell at the market and that it took two hours for her to complete one pair of the puff balls, Leah and her mom came up with another design for earrings made with yarn.
They also thought of a fun tassel design that only takes Leah 40 minutes per pair.
Leah has learned a lot from her summer selling at the market, particularly how to attract people to her booth. She said her best days occur when the booth is set in the middle of the row of stands.
"I don't want to be in the front because people don't usually buy the first thing they see," she said. "And I don't want to be at the back, because some people don't make it all the way to the end of the street."
Leah also said people seem drawn to the bright colors of her booth. Her mom said she's seen her daughter demonstrate entrepreneurship and confidence she didn't even know she had while working this summer.
Across Willamette Falls Drive from Leah's Golden Puff stand, a third 11-year-old was selling used clothes and raising awareness about fast fashion and child labor practices.
PJ Wagner got the idea for her Peace, Love and Pigtails stand at a small business in Oregon City where she learned about ethics in buying clothes.
"A bunch of stores use fast fashion, and I thought if you sell used clothes you would be stopping that production of clothes that use fast fashion and you can just keep recycling them," she said.
PJ sells her own clothes at the stand, as well as those of her friends and family and even some donations from market-goers.
The proceeds from her sales go to the Child Labor Coalition, an organization working to end exploitive child labor practices.
After the market ends for the summer, PJ said she's unsure whether she wants to keep selling clothes. However, she knows she wants to keep advocating for the Child Labor Coalition, she said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.