Four Crafty Kids Mold Their Passions Into Business Ventures

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Young entrepreneurs Amber, Sophia, Marion and Iris all turned their artistic hobbies into a small business

Amber Ross, business owner of Pink Ladybug Creations

Photography by John Michael Simpson


Amber Ross, 14, cannot remember a time without art. “I was really, honestly, just bored one day,” Amber says, recalling a moment three years ago when inspiration first struck. “I had the supplies so I put something together that I found on the internet, like an inspiration photo, and then I put my own spin on it. And that was my first acrylic painting.”

A family friend saw the abstract work – with glitter on a gradient background of pink blending into blue – and bought the piece on the spot. Since then, Amber and her mom (and biggest fan), Shvaughn Ross, sought support from WEBB Squared, a Pittsboro-based organization that helps Black and brown entrepreneurs. Amber is learning how to put together a business plan for Pink Ladybug Creations, inspired by her childhood nickname, Ladybug, and exploring how best to market her work.

For the time being, she has set up a booth at local pop-up markets and posts her work in an online marketplace called ArtPal and also on Facebook and Instagram. Recently, Amber joined the Chatham Arts Council’s artist directory to gain more exposure. She has sold a few acrylic abstract paintings – mostly 8-by-8 or 11-by-14-inch pieces – and about a dozen prints and also accepts commissions.

This academic year, Amber entered Northwood High School as a freshman and took a break from painting. “I was getting adjusted to everything. It’s pretty hectic,” she says. “But the other day, I made another piece. And that was very relaxing. I forgot how good it makes me feel. I just really enjoy it. It’s very calming.”

At Northwood, Amber is exploring other forms of art, like sketching, in classes taught by Leslie Burwell. “I was encouraged to keep trying and practicing and actually got decent at it,” Amber says. “And yeah, I enjoy that now.”

Leslie says Amber is organized and has a business sensibility when it comes to asking questions in art class. “She is very direct,” she says. “Her painting style is all about color! She had been a mentor to students at her table. All attributes of a leader.”

Amber is looking forward to developing her skills and plans to offer more merchandise, like puzzles, T-shirts and mugs, that features her artwork. She hopes to inspire other young people of color to pursue their dreams. “Honestly, I didn’t think we’d get as far as we did. But I’m really glad that we did,” Amber says. “I just want to work harder. I want to invest more time into the things that I enjoy doing. And [spend time with] my mother because I really appreciate her and I wouldn’t be where I am now without her.” – by Anna-Rhesa Versola

Sophia Chutz, business owner of Stitchin' Mama


It’s not the average 12-year-old that can masterfully wield a crochet hook or operate a sewing machine. But for Sophia Chutz, a seventh grader at George Moses Horton Middle School, it’s how she spends much of her free time.

She started a business, Stitchin’ Mama, selling her creations in fall 2022, but she’s long had an entrepreneurial spirit. Her first venture was at the 2021 Chatham Chamber of Commerce’s Children’s Business Fair, where she set up a hair braiding booth called Sophia’s Strands.

“I did OK, but it’s not something that you can do everywhere,” she says. “I’m a pretty efficient sewer, and I knew that I could do something with that.” Sophia learned the basics of sewing from her mom, Jennifer Chutz, and continued to expand her abilities with the help of the internet. She’s also selftaught in crocheting, citing the YouTube channel Hooked by Robin as a favorite resource for detailed tutorials. When Sophia decided to capitalize on these skills, she looked through her collection of pattern books to see what she’d most enjoy making. She also did market research by browsing the web to see what kinds of handmade products were selling well at the time.

“But even if I make something and just give it to someone, I like seeing people’s happy reactions to what I’ve made,” Sophia says.

In these early stages of Stitchin’ Mama, Sophia has focused on crocheted stuffed animals, keychains and finger puppets, as well as sewn tote bags and baby blankets – her current bestsellers.

The young entrepreneur says she learned a lot about the ups and downs of owning a business from participating again in the Chamber of Commerce’s business fair in November. She was able to see which items were most popular with certain demographics: While her baby blankets and tote bags did well with adults, younger kids were more likely to buy her stuffed unicorns and rabbits.

“When I make sales, I really feel like I’ve done something,” Sophia says. “I’ve put a lot of time into it. When you go somewhere and don’t make a lot of sales, it’s not the best thing ever. But you always have the next thing coming, and you have to get ready for it.”

The next step for Sophia and her business is to create a website so she can start selling her products online. Another big goal is to build up her inventory so she can have a regular presence at the Pittsboro First Sunday Artisan Fair & Market when it returns in April. During this building phase, she plans to expand her product line to include pencil pouches and miniature crocheted items like pickles and ducks to attract more customers her age.

Sophia says Stitchin’ Mama has opened her eyes to what’s possible as an individual craft seller.

“I know that if I really get into it, I could be really successful,” she says. “It’s definitely a thing you see out there – you can look anything up and people have websites and Etsy stores. So I think to expand and one day be able to do that would be really cool.”

Sign up here to be among the first to know when her virtual store launches. – by Brooke Spach

Marion and Iris, business owners of Sapphire & Missy's Clay Studio


Don’t let the kitchen tools fool you – this dynamic duo specializes in a different kind of creation. The medium of choice for sisters Marion Jacobs, 11, and Iris Jacobs, 7, isn’t pasta dough; it’s polymer clay.

After a few long, idle months upon starting online schooling in March 2020, Marion was eager for summer break so she could use the free time working with her hands.

“[Clay] was something for me to use as a kind of, ‘Hey, COVID is here, let’s relieve some stress and squeeze something as hard as I want to,’” she says. Eventually, the clay began to take shape.

Marion has always had an affinity for dragons, so when she stumbled across Dragons and Beasties, an online shop known for its cartoonish handmade dragon sculptures, Marion was inspired to emulate the style. By the end of 2021, the family playroom in Pittsboro had become home to more than 100 clay dragons. Iris got in on the action, too, making animal figures for fun because she liked the feeling of clay in her hands.

“My dragons did not turn out very well when I first started,” Marion says. “I would just work on them every here and there, and it took me a while, but once I got pretty darn good at it, I started to sell them a bit. And now I’m like, really good.”

Around that same time, the Perry Harrison Elementary School students attended the Chatham Chamber of Commerce’s Children’s Business Fair with their moms, Laura Jacobs and Michele Cosgrove, and saw a need for more kids selling handmade products. The family decided the 2022 fair would be a great way for the girls to capitalize on their creativity and clear out inventory. Thus, Sapphire & Missy’s Clay Studio was born. The business’s name was inspired by their favorite Pokemon trainers – Marion being Sapphire and Iris being Missy.

Iris wanted to make her own items for the fair in November, and knowing Christmas was on many folks’ minds, she decided to sell clay ornaments. “[The business fair] made me feel pretty cool because I knew somebody was going to go hang that ornament I made on their tree,” she says.

After that positive experience, she and Marion participated in the Pittsboro First Sunday Artisan Fair & Market in December and plan to commit to more of those monthly events in 2023. They hope to launch a website in the coming months and start accepting custom orders as a way to grow their business. The animal-loving sisters plan to donate some profits to the Chatham Animal Rescue, a cause they’ve supported for years through lemonade stands and gifts in kind.

Marion and Iris hope to inspire other kids their age to create art and to start their own businesses. Sapphire & Missy’s Clay Studio has already taught the sisters lifelong financial skills, and, though they sometimes argue, they always end up finding a way to work together. – by Brooke Spach

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