By Kimberly Kweder
While many children try selling roadside lemonade for fast cash, 9-year-old Zoe Toro of Edgewater dreamed bigger. She created her her own business as a way to give back to the community after she experienced a life-changing health crisis.
“The Zoe Project” was the highest-nominated business selected for the premier showcase of the Little Bosses festival held Oct. 3 at the Annapolis Town Center. Fourteen pint-sized entrepreneurs showcased products and services to customers in a pop-up shop at the shopping center in Parole, featuring kid-made soaps, buttons, clothing, popcorn, jewelry, lawn mowers, and (yes), lemonade.
Zoe was diagnosed in January 2018 with a rare pediatric autoimmune disorder called PANDAS. She recovered in April of that year, but the expenses incurred by her family were immense. Her mom, Stephanie, said that each specialist and treatment cost $25,000— insurance wouldn’t cover everything—so that’s where the community stepped in to raise money. “This is a way to give back. It’s a project with a purpose,” Stephanie said.
Zoe was inspired by the colors of the panda and began creating beaded bracelets to help raise awareness of the disorder. Twenty percent of the proceeds of each purchase goes to a family in need or a foundation. Zoe said she enjoys making the bracelets and picking the family or foundation each month. Recently, they helped families of fallen Iraqi soldiers and Wild Kid Acres, a farm in Edgewater.
Other little entrepreneurs were driven by education and their love for sports and music. Tristan Lindsey, 9, took just-your-average-lemonade to the next level with Tristan’s “XL Lemonade”. He tag-teams with mom Kristen, who acts as chef, serving up freshly squeezed lemonade, watermelon mint, and lemonade tea.
“What we thought what was just a summer thing has been going on for two years now,” said Ricky Johnson, Tristan’s father.
Tristan said his goal is to build up a college savings fund from the sales.
When Christian Crowner, also 9, of Severn, isn’t jamming to Erykah Badu’s “The Love of My Life” and watching football, he is creating batches of his Vegan Cheddar popcorn. “I’ll be making popcorn and getting touchdowns at the same time,” Crowner said.
Crowner said he was inspired by eating popcorn with his Grandpa “D” every night as a snack. He began his popcorn business in 2019 and to date, he’s earned over a few thousand dollars, registered as a LLC, and been highlighted by vegan influencer Tabitha Brown, said his mom, Jasmine.
The Little Bosses event was supported by Trademark Properties and the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation.
Anthony Henry, general manager of Annapolis Town Center, said the idea of a children’s pop-up concept came to him when he realized there had been 50 pop-ups over the last three years at the Town Center but not one specifically for youth.
“This is the most unprecedented time [the pandemic], and meanwhile, the kids are thriving in businesses and it’s a beautiful thing to do,” he said.