By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Koji Kitabatake had the perfect product for a sultry summer day.
His slushes made with real watermelon and lemon juice were an icy treat for Kearney Hy-Vee customers looking to beat the mid-90s heat.
“I’m selling these because it was supposed to be a really hot day, and everyone should be able to cool down with a healthy slush,” the 10-year-old said.
Kitabatake and other participants in the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Biz Kidz Camp were set up Friday evening outside the local grocery store, where they showcased businesses they spent the last week developing.
The Park Elementary School fifth-grader also had an assortment of gooey slime in a variety of bold colors with optional foam and glitter. He learned how to make that product by watching a YouTube video.
“My siblings like slime,” said Kitabatake, who added it to his business, Stupendous Slime and Scrumptious Slush, after realizing a lot of other kids like it, too.
Biz Kidz Camp, which is organized by UNK’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development (CERD), teaches youths ages 10 to 14 the ins and outs of running their own businesses. The weeklong event covers finances, marketing, customer service, food safety and business ethics before participants head out to sell their products.
Aliese Hoffman, who coordinates the camp for the CERD, said the goal is to plant an entrepreneurship seed early on to get youths thinking about business careers.
“Once they get this knowledge and experience, they’re just going to grow their business,” she said. “Who knows what it will become?”
Kitabatake learned a lot about budgeting and profit margins during the camp, and he was excited to start bringing in money. “It was really fun starting a business and making all this stuff.”
Tate Brown already had his own business, Mr. Brown’s Brownies and Bakery, but he picked up some new tips through the UNK camp.
“It’s been educational,” the 12-year-old Kearney resident said.
Brown, a seventh-grader at Horizon Middle School, was selling an assortment of brownies from his grandmother’s recipe book – cheesecake, triple chocolate, s’mores, peanut butter blast and original – as well as an original creation, a brownie banana bread that combines the two baked goodies.
He’s saving up money to take a trip to Ireland with his family.
Isabella Cao of Kearney is another entrepreneurship veteran. She attended Biz Kidz Camp for the fourth time.
“For me, it’s all about the life skills you learn in this camp,” the 13-year-old said. “It doesn’t just stop once you leave the camp. It kind of follows you wherever you go.”
The Kearney High School freshman previously sold bracelets, crafts and baked goods. This year’s business, FIZZ, featured handmade bath bombs and body scrubs created with natural ingredients.
“I have a huge garden at home, I love crafting and I love Bath and Body Works, so I kind of combined the best of all three worlds,” she said.
Cao plans to keep selling her bath products and wants to continue her entrepreneur career into adulthood.
“I just love everything about it – the people, the friends, the experience of getting to make your own product and sell it,” she said. “It’s just fun.”
In addition to highlighting the creativity of the 13 participants in this year’s Biz Kidz Camp, the event exposes them to UNK and the programs offered here. They got to meet instructors on campus and use the computer lab to design and print business cards.
“I think it’s really great to bring students onto campus at a young age,” Hoffman said. “Hopefully they fall in love with it and come back.”
Biz Kidz Camp will hold another product showcase 7-10 p.m. Thursday (June 21) during the Kearney Night Market in downtown Kearney.