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More than 100 Kids Participated In Naples Children's Business Fair

The courtyard at Gulf Coast High School in Naples was lined with tents and displays showcasing the business ideas of the more than 100 participants at the inaugural Naples Children’s Business Fair.

The event was a collaboration between The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate organization, the Leadership Collier Foundation. 

“We are very excited about this event because of the impact that is has to reach hundreds of students in one day with entrepreneurship,” said Amanda Beights of LCF.

Participants registered online and were required to submit basic business plans in order to particpate.

Children ranging in age from six to 17 showcased handmade arts and crafts, home improvement gadgets, ideas to improve the lives of disaster-stricken people and various food recipes.

Participating at the event was 10-year-old Owen Kurtz, the founder of Big O’s Mobile Food. He and two friends served his signature dish, Sloppy O’s, which is Owen’s take on a traditional Sloppy Joe,  from a modified hotdog vendor cart.

Kurtz said he got the idea for his business from a television show.

“I was watching a show ‘The Great Food Truck Race,’ and I wanted to start a food truck," Kurtz said. "My parents told me to start with a food cart.”  

Community members were able to vote for their favorite child entrepreneur in three categories: most original business idea, highest business potential and best presentation/creativity. 

Participants were eligible for prizes in the form of cash or tablets. The ultimate prize, though, was the Sunshine Award. The winner of that prize gets to display and sell their product or service in a local Sunshine Ace Hardware Store.

Nikkie Dvorchak of the Naples Chamber helped put the event together. 

“The turn out has been really wonderful, and we hope to continue to grow it every year,” she said.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.