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Today's Family Magazine

Lake Kidz Biz recognizes young entrepreneurs with awards

Jun 26, 2018 10:41AM

Jacob Bonnick, 13, attends St. Gabriel School in Concord. He was the winner of the "individual for profit" category in the 2018 Lake Kidz Biz awards cosponsored by Today's Family.

By Mary Flenner

Lake Kidz Biz, an organization under the Lake County Chambers of Commerce,  is an organization that was started with the purpose of bringing together companies focused on families and children’s services and products together in the spirit of enhancing business growth through a collaboration of ideas.

For the third year, they’ve awarded Kidz Business Awards to recognize young innovative minds who have started a business or implemented a not for-profit idea.  Kids had to be under 18 and live in or attend school in Lake County.  Entries could not be a school project or assignment or an activity for credit from an organization.

The awards program, which is cosponsored by Today's Family, is designed to recognize Lake County youth for implementing a business concept on their own; identify how youth are having a positive impact in the community; and publicize the importance of youth helping others.
“It’s so important because it recognizes those kids who are going above and beyond,” says Pat Perry, programming chair and cofounder of Lake Kidz Biz.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase kids who are taking their knowledge and passions and putting them into practice,” Perry continues.  “There are so many kids in our area who have out of the kindness of their heart created a business of sorts to provide items or monetary donations to others.  Be it big or small, it does not matter.”

Six students were honored at the Lake County Captains baseball game on June 15.  Winners received $250, a commemorative certificate and plaque, movie tickets and movie money and business cards to continue growing their passion.   

“We are pleased to be able to bring into the spotlight the winners of this year’s Kidz Business Awards.  Their time and talents are benefiting others while they themselves are gaining a strong foundation for running a business. These kids are making a difference,” states Amie Longstaff, chairperson of the awards program. 

Individual Not-for-Profit
Winner: Jonah's Vision
Jonah Cummings
Age 17, Kirtland High School
Seventeen-year-old high school junior Jonah Cummings created Jonah’s Vision to raise money for the Cleveland Sight Center.  Jonah, who is blind in his right eye from an accident as a child, said he created the organization, “to help adults and children who have a worse condition than mine and need the Sight Center services.”

The Cleveland Sight Center offers programs and services that are designed to enhance the independence, education, career and support opportunities for those with vision loss and their caregivers.

Jonah organized a fundraiser and coordinated donations, ticket sales, entertainment and marketed the event.  In 2017, Jonah raised $12,200 for the Cleveland Sight Center and in spring of 2018, he had already raised $3,640.

Not only was he helping people, but he was learning business practices along the way.  “I learned to price tickets, so I could both attract guests and have money left over to donate.  I had to figure out how to set prices for raffle tickets… find entertainment and negotiate prices while keeping the budget in mind,” Jonah says.

“Last year I mailed out 100 letters and this year over 200 letters.  I visited with local organizations including the Lions Club and Kiwanis to speak about the events.  I also did interviews with local newspapers and my pastor promoted the event in the church bulletin.  Not only did I use these methods to get people to donate, but also used them to solicit gift donations for raffles.”

“I have a story that relates to a cause that people can relate to in different ways.  Whatever I decide to do with my life, I am capable of doing it because of what I have learned from a leadership, scholarship and character perspective,” he says.

Group Not-for-Profit
Winner: The “Happy Spreaders”
Alexis Richner, Charlie Holbrooks,
Azlyn Nelson, Audrey Heller
6th graders, Fairport Harding High School
Their mission?  To spread happy!  What started as leaving uplifting notes on other students’ lockers has evolved to collecting donations for the Geauga Humane Society.

These four Happy Spreaders have a general do-gooder spirit, and look for ways to bring a smile to others faces.  Sixth-graders Alexis Richner, Charlie Holbrooks, Azlyn Nelson and Audrey Heller (pictured left to right) would surprise students by placing positive notes on lockers with emoji faces or inspirational quotes.  Students began to ask for them, and so the group set up a table to craft and sell them for a minimum donation amount of 25 cents, and they raised over $100.  The students were inspired to donate their money after Audrey had adopted a cat from the Geauga Humane Society and heard they needed donations.

“We now collect money, blankets, treats, and toy donations for the Geauga Humane Society because we believe animal abuse and cruelty is horrible,” the group says.

The group says their main goal is to help animals, but also focus on “spreading good vibes and telling anyone they can do anything.”

“We have worked as a group and to discuss problems without arguing.  We also learned it doesn’t matter how small you are, you can always make a difference.”
The group also plans to donate their award money back to the Humane Society.

Individual For-Profit
Winner: Jacob's Lawn Care
Winner: Jacob Bonnick
Age 13, St. Gabriel School
When most 11-year-olds were saving up for a toy or video game, Jacob Bonnick was saving up for things like a zero-turn mower and a weed whacker.  At 13, he already knows the importance of investing in his business, Jacob’s Lawn Care.

“I provide my customers with lawn cutting, mulching, leaf cleanup and weeding.  I love to be outside, work with lawn equipment, the smell of fresh cut grass, earning money and making lawns look beautiful.  I also liked that the startup cost for my company was very low,” he says of starting his business. 

An older high school boy who had been cutting neighbor’s grass for years inspired him to start his own business and also taught him lawn care tips, equipment upkeep and business strategies.

“When I started my business, I was expecting to make some extra spending money and to stay active in the summer.  The outcome was much greater than I expected.  My company has grown and I have learned a lot about business, discipline, customer service and responsibilities.”

He took the money he received from his 12th birthday and used it to purchase a 10-year-old Toro push lawn mower for $120.  His father lent him his leaf blower, although Jacob eventually saved up to purchase his own leaf blower and weed whacker.  “I paid for everything by saving and reinvesting in my business,” he says.

Jacob’s strategy includes great customer service, which he knows is important for word-of-mouth recommendations. He also uses social media to promote his business on community pages and created flyers and business cards.

In 2017, his 118 grass cuts totaled $2,646, or $21.84 per hour.  “This year, I expect to double my business as I have already doubled my customer base,” Jacob predicts. 
“People like to see young kids working hard outside and having fun doing it,”  he adds.  Through the process he learned that, “I can do anything with hard work, planning, saving and determination,” he says.

He concludes, “This experience has already opened my eyes to all the opportunities I can accomplish in the future.  At the age of 13, I have already experienced a lot of business lessons.  I can apply them in life to help me accomplish whatever I set my mind to.  I have grown my business from a rusty old used lawnmower to a shiny, new zero-turn lawn tractor.  I can dream big!”
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Parents and businesses can stay connected to all the latest events and news from Kidz Biz at LakeKidzBiz.com.  The awards application process begins in late fall; anyone interested in nominating a child or learning more about the process can also call 440-974-1198.