FLINT, MI – Bookmarks, buttons and postcards cover a tabletop in the Flint Farmers’ Market on a busy Thursday afternoon in June. International Academy of Flint students Raven Hullum, 14, and Erin Long, 17, look over their creations with pride.
The teens are the creators of Loving Me Inc., a business designed to promote positivity, spread joy and bolster confidence. The accessories and postcards feature the teens’ hand-drawn artwork of people with varying ethnicities, cultures and body types paired with messages such as, “The sun shines with you under it,” “Bold, strong beautiful,” and “Love yourself.”
“Erin and I came up with a product to help young teenagers learn to love themselves,” says Raven. “I saw a lot of my friends go through many problems with their bodies and they never really thought of themselves as beautiful and worthy.”
Raven and Erin created their business through YQ Biz, a program launched this year by YouthQuest, an after-school enrichment program operated by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the things that a lot of our kids don’t know a lot about is how to manage funds,” says YouthQuest Program Director Cheryl Adkins. “It’s a fun way to teach about economics, the way we did it. Because we allowed them to think out loud and develop their products. We want them to think and develop an action and a product.”
Similar to the popular television show “Shark Tank,” students from 16 schools pitched their business ideas in front of three judges from each location. Two businesses were selected from each school to receive funding to develop their businesses and the entrepreneurs then sold their products at a Flint Farmer’s Market pop-up shop.
“Me and Raven have both been drawing and wanted to sell our work at one point or another,” says Erin. “Eventually when this came around, we took the opportunity and turned it into a business.”
The young entrepreneurs worked around diligently to get their products made before the pop-up sale and ended up making $389 in four hours.
Adkins laughs and says, “I bought some! I bought an entire set. … The artwork on the cards was phenomenal. The cards and the messages they had on the cards, I thought were just pretty novel. People didn’t think that other kids or themselves need to hear it, but they need to hear it.”
Erin and Raven said they plan to use their profits to continue building their business by investing in markers, pens, paper, printing and other supplies.
“Standing outside in the hot sun for four hours does not sound like the most fun, but when you’re talking to people about something you love and something you’re passionate about, it goes by quickly,” says Raven. “It almost felt like they (the customers) were family. Like one big family.”
“I guess I can say that this inspired me because I always wanted to do art but I never thought I was good enough to do it,” says Erin. “I thought it was ironic because we are promoting self-worth. I’m inspired to create more art.”
For more information about YouthQuest, visit their website