It was the first of December, a cold and icy weekend morning, when young entrepreneurs head out to set up their booths at the Little Merchants Expo, organized by Milton Muslim Moms, with parents as their helpers.
Prior to the event, these children had had time to formulate a business plan, with pointers provided at an especiallyorganized workshop. Hafsa Hassam, the founding member of MMMs, and think-tank behind the Expo, said, “I organized an entrepreneur’s workshop so the kids learn the importance of a sales strategy, marketing and budget management.”
At the Expo, it sure seemed like her efforts had paid off. The vendors set up creative booths to sell their wares. And they came up with color schemes, props, banners and detailed pricing mechanisms, to sell their products. Customers were spoilt for choice as they visited booth after booth of unique goods. There were cookies and cupcakes, slime and jewelry, and paintings and tea coasters – and this was not all. Some young entrepreneurs had set up stalls where you could play creative games, while there were others that set up props and backgrounds around which customers could take photographs to print.
Despite the bad weather conditions, Adam Van Koeverden, Milton’s Member of Parliament was the first guest to make it to the venue. He said he was glad that the Milton Muslim Moms were ‘always up to something good”. He told the young entrepreneurs, “Your parents make great sacrifices to help you grow, so make sure you pay them back by doing something good for them. I learnt to make coffee just like my mom likes it, and that was my way of appreciating her for taking me out for kayaking practice at six in the morning”. Adam handed out the awards for Social Work Recognition to members of the community with exemplary contributions towards youth empowerment (Nargis Naqvi, Amy Leask, Muzammil Younus, Imran Merchant, Ahmed Hussain, Maria Garito. He also announced the prizes for the vendors of three booths that had run the best pre-event marketing campaigns before making it a point to visit each booth to chat with the vendors.
Shaikh Dawood, Director, Community Outreach and Education at ICCM, and a favourite amongst the Muslim youth of Milton, had his own recommendations for the young entrepreneurs. He said, “When you spend more, you earn more’, and went on to explain that, ‘the money you spend is the money you have power over, and the money that you keep in the bank is not in your control’.
Areeb Bajwa the self-taught IT geek, and creator of several apps, shared his trade secret on how to own a Lamborghini. He told the young extrepreneurs to ‘make video games rather than just play them”.
Helal Musleh’s story-telling sessions were quite an attraction for children, as they gathered around her as she spun reality into her stories. Helal Musleh writes books for children, and focuses on a diverse representation of cultures in her stories.
As the Expo drew to a close, it was delightful to see vendors working out pricing formulae, of the ‘buy one, get one free’ sort, to sell off what was left on their booths rather than haul it back home. They seemed to have learnt the lessons of successful entrepreneurship well.