Meet the One Of A Kind Show’s youngest entrepreneurs

A show display.
Displays at the One Of A Kind Show's Spring event (Image provided by Katrina Milich) 

Saanjh Vyas stands behind her table, which is lined up next to the 12 tables of her peers. She looks at the display in front of her — the beautiful floral resin jewelry she spent countless hours planning and creating, which is now about to be sold.

These entrepreneurs are ready to face the upcoming crowd at Canada’s premiere arts and crafts show in Toronto. The air buzzes with excitement as they await the up to 200,000 visitors that they have long been planning for. They cannot wait. They straighten the name tags hanging around their necks and ensure their handcrafted products are lined up just so. Around 400 makers, vendors, and entrepreneurs do the same in their own booths.

What sets apart this aisle of entrepreneurs? They have yet to graduate from the eighth grade.

This year, the spring One Of A Kind Show hosted 13 eighth-graders from Williams Parkway Sr. Public school in Brampton, Ont., to showcase their products at the event’s Small Biz section.

The students are studying in the international business and technology program, which has been offered at Williams Parkway Sr. Public school for nine years. Students apply to the program right after Grade 5. In Grade 8, they take all of their learned “entrepreneurial spirit” and knowledge to apply it to a final task, such as the ones that were seen at the One Of A Kind Show.

Immersive map of the Special Sections at the One Of A Kind Show

Saanjh’s jewelry line, which uses real flowers, was inspired by her culture, which places large value on the various meanings that different flowers hold.

“I wanted to capture the poetry of nature,” she said in an interview a few weeks after the show.

She gives the example of the Queen Anne’s lace, a flower which she found had healing properties which “flushes toxins out of your inner energy.”

Vyas stressed the importance of building a personal connection to the business. There needs to be a story that ties to the business owner which the customer can relate to as well, she said.

“I really thought about how I can make my business personal to me and how I can have my story in my business,” she said.

WATCH | Saanjh Vyas explains her jewelry and reflects on her experience:

Saanjh reflected on how the program, and its various opportunities, allowed her to grow into the confident entrepreneur that she is today. 

“I swear if you saw me at the start, I would not talk to anybody,” she said. “But at One Of A Kind, I would be handling all the customer interactions, I would not want to go on break because I love talking to people.”

Through conversations with other vendors and the customers at One Of A Kind, Saanjh learned about how others wished they got an opportunity like this one at such a young age. 

“They told us that we were really lucky and it was very insightful for us because we are very lucky to be a part of this program and we’re learning a bunch of skills that we can apply in the future,” she said.

‘We just feel like it was a natural partnership’

Meenal Kapoor, the teacher in charge of helping the students develop their entrepreneurial spirits and present their products at the show, has been an educator with the Peel District School Board for more than 22 years. She’s now teaching international business and technology at the school.

It was nine years ago that the One Of A Kind Show decided to commence a partnership with Williams Parkway Sr. Public School.

“It was a student ​​of ours that made the first connection to the One Of A Kind Show,” said Kapoor. The students usually attended other smaller markets in the community, but Williams Parkway Sr. Public School managed to create a connection with the One Of A Kind Show through that student.

The show’s director recognized the young creator’s passion and encouraged them to speak to teachers about the idea.

“After conversing with the school and really understanding what that program is all about and understanding what it is that they want to do at the show, we just feel like it was a natural partnership to be able to create a platform for them to sell their work and to meet their customers,” said Janice Leung, who has been director of the One Of A Kind Show since 2017.

The Small Biz section is popular at One Of A Kind, according to Leung. The students are passionate and knowledgeable about their businesses and they speak with confidence and professionalism. 

“I think that’s very admirable,” said Leung. “It is very inspiring to see young people being so creative and being so savvy with how they want to run their business.”

Kapoor’s pride shone through as she discussed the students’ problem-solving skills and the resilience she observed at the event.

“Fourteen hours at a time, to sell products over an Easter long weekend, is resilience in itself. These students stepped up, they communicated, they engaged. They really, really represented themselves,” she said.

“They worked and their passion was literally oozing out of them. And it was beautiful to see.”

Read more from the Toronto Observer:

The students’ profits went towards supporting the Building Walls of Wisdom charity, which aims to eradicate poverty through education. It helps build schools in impoverished areas such as Ghana, Nicaragua, Kenya and Ecuador.

Kapoor hopes that some time in the future, she can experience a full-circle moment with her students at a One Of A Kind event.

“Our dream is to one day go … and see one of our former students there as a business owner and a vendor,” she said.

About this article

Posted: Apr 23 2024 3:00 pm
Filed under: Culture and communities Education Features High School News Spotlight On Small Biz