Destin McCaskill has always loved doughnuts. Growing up in a family of cooks, it seemed only natural when he started making his own.
Then came the cupcakes, cookies, icing and other confections he learned to create.
Destin, 14, of Gwynn Oak turned his passion into entrepreneurship Saturday, rolling out an array of homemade edibles under the name of his new company, Fodo, at the third annual Baltimore Children’s Business Fair. It’s a showcase event for budding business mavens between ages 6 and 15.
More than 70 young entrepreneurs went public with products and services they’d dreamed up as well as crafted, built, drawn, sewn, and put on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
Customers young and old patrolled the aisles at the three-hour bazaar, hearing out sales pitches, checking out products and opening wallets for everything from do-it-yourself science kits to clay-and-polymer wishbones (for the Thanksgiving season).
At $3 per slice, Destin’s Oreo cake went so quickly that he soon gave up on tracking revenues as they rolled in.
“Business is good," he said, pausing to wipe a smudge of flour from his face. "I’ll have to add it up later.”
The idea for the event came from Ja’Near Garrus, an educational-technology entrepreneur and mother of three who lives in Howard County.
She was “looking for something for my kids to take part in around entrepreneurship” about four years ago, she says, when she heard about a similar event in Washington, D.C., an entrepreneurship fair sponsored by a Texas-based nonprofit.
Garrus saw youngsters hawking drawings, science projects, skin-care products and more, each backed by a marketing plan, and decided to bring a version to Baltimore.
The Museum of Industry volunteered space, Garrus’ firm and other businesses made donations, the first event drew dozens of participants, and word spread.
“A lot of parents came to watch and said, ‘How can my kids get involved?’” she says. “We have kids as young as 5 selling and talking about their businesses. The thinking was, ‘If these kids can do it, so can mine.’”
Garrus says entrepreneurship teaches everything from self-confidence to how to benefit others in a community.
Perhaps most of all, she says, it teaches that something kids are passionate about can boost the general welfare even as it makes money.
“Entrepreneurship gives people freedom,” she said. “They can pursue their ideas and ambitions without a gatekeeper, and that allows them to be better community members. ... If students can take their lives and futures into their own hands, it can change things.”
Across the aisle from Destin, an entrepreneur half his age delivered a pitch to potential customers.
“Welcome to Grishm’s Gala Land,” said 7-year-old Grishm Panda of Ashburn, Virginia, catching the eye of a passer-by. “We’re selling eco-friendly bags. I love animals and I love the environment. I decided to combine them.”
He gestured toward a display of colorful paper bags ― decorated as animals and suitable as party favors, they were priced at $5 each ― and recited the names of each model.
“This is Doggy the Dog, this is Froggy the Frog, and this is Geoffrey the Giraffe,” he said, adding that each can be purchased on his Esty site for $7. (There’s a user fee, he explained.)
Anyone can apply for inclusion in the event, Garrus said, as long as they’re the right age and fill out an online application replete with bottom-line questions: What price will you charge for each product, and what will each cost you? How will you pay for startup costs? How will you market your business before the fair?
Jack Remondini of Ellicott City, 10, handled the questions as smoothly as his pitch.
Jackstoons, his company, markets Jack’s work as an artist, novelist and musician, affording buyers the chance to purchase downloads of “Ivywood,” a fantasy novel-in-progress ($15 for 10 chapters), illustrations of its characters ($20 for an 8x10 Giclee print), and even cookies he baked that morning.
“They’re fresh out of the oven,” he said.
The fair was part contest, with adult judges ― all local entrepreneurs ― rating entrants in three categories by age group.
Grishm came up a winner ― his party sacks were named most original in the youngest group ― and so did Destin, whose Fodo (“fond of doughnuts”) bagged best presentation among teens.
Garrus made a speech congratulating the victors. When she said each participant was in fact a winner, Angelique Jackson of Frederick showed she understood.
The 14-year-old, who sells original watercolor art through her company, Aquarella, had several works left at day’s end, but that didn’t dim her optimism.
“Whatever I don’t sell, I’ll put online,” she said.