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Kids crafting a business

January 22, 2012
By JoHANNA BOYLE - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

BIG BAY - Kiah Staley, 11, and her brother Milo, 8, are fairly typical kids - they take music lessons every week, they attend school every day through homeschool classes, Kiah dreams of someday owning a horse.

But the two are also involved in something most kids their age aren't - they operate their own crafting business both online at and at festivals and markets throughout the region.

"We started making things from watching my mom and dad do it," Kiah said.

Article Photos

Milo, 8, and Kiah, 11, Staley of Big Bay run their own business called Northern Children, which includes jewelry, crafts, toys and greeting cards. They use the proceeds from their business as spending money or to save toward bigger items. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

Mom Wendy Johnson and dad Mojo Staley own BirchLeaf Designs, crafting and selling handmade toys at outlets such as artists markets and the Marquette Farmers and Artisans' Market.

When she was 7 years old, Kiah began creating decorative fairy figurines out of beads, fabric and wire to sell at one of the art and music festivals the family regularly attends to sell the products for BirchLeaf Designs.

Those fairy figures grew into a business called Northern Children, with both Kiah and Milo designing and creating products to sell online at and at festivals throughout the year.

Kiah now creates beaded earrings, friendship bracelets, as well as felt gnome figurines.

Milo's products include toy dynamite sticks - three wooden dowels bundled together - and toy wooden knives.

"I have my own knives (to work with)," Milo said. "I trace them (the toy knives) out on wood and my daddy cuts them out. I just whittle them a little bit and I sand them on my dad's belt sander."

The toy dynamite sticks came about after Johnson had leftover dowel pieces from streamers she makes for BirchLeaf Designs. Milo began putting them together in threes and now handles all the production himself.

Both contribute to making a series of greeting cards they also sell, as well as a collection of recycled crayons.

Having their own crafting business gives the siblings the chance to earn money on their own, which is often spent at the festivals, buying toys or treats or saved for other things.

"I try to save up as much as I can," Kiah said. "On thing, it's probably not going to happen very soon, but I want to get a horse."

Although selling alongside their parents is a good introduction to running a business, the online store is introducing the kids to new ways of marketing and selling their products.

"The online store is a much bigger commitment," Johnson said. "They have to take an item and take a nice picture of it and write a description about it."

Then comes factoring in fees from the website into their prices. And getting a jump on products designed for specific holidays early, to get better placement on the Etsy website, an online marketplace for handmade items.

"You have to do it really early so that you're close to the front of the pages," Kiah said.

When approaching a festive, the kids usually start making more of their products to make sure they have enough in stock. At other times during the year, they make products as needed.

While the kids might enjoy having a little extra spending money at their disposal, Johnson said she felt the business was an important experience.

"I think it's great," she said. "They're learning about money. They're learning about running a business. They're prepared. They're already doing it with little of my help."

Kiah agreed.

"The thing it does is it's really good experience for business when you're older," she said.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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