By Kara Thompson,
Special to the AFRO
When Candace Okin was laid off from her job in 2019, it was a hard financial time for her. But she wanted to make sure she rose to the occasion to the best of her ability, in order to be a role model for her son. Through this hard time, her children’s book “Mason Makes Money” was born.
“I think that children naturally see and pick up and do what they see that their parents or their guardians are doing,” said Okin. “I wanted my son to see me doing something proactive and doing something responsible with the financial situation that I found myself in. I set out to write something to him if you will, but in a digestible format.”
Okin has been a writer her entire professional career in varying capacities. Her undergraduate degree is in journalism, and she has worked for various nonprofit organizations by writing grants for them in her local area of Houston, Texas.
When she launched her book, Okin originally allocated a portion of the sales to give back to the community—specifically, child entrepreneurs. But then she started getting questions about what else she was doing, and decided to expand.
“Because of my brand as an author, I like to say that I create stories beyond the book,” she said. “So for me, it’s not enough to just write a story and leave it there. I wanted to keep that conversation going.”
Okin started by offering 30 minute to one-hour workshops for kids during the summer to discuss different things about entrepreneurship like marketing and budgeting. From there she decided if she really wanted to be a resource, she needed to develop a set curriculum. So she reached out to kids and their parents, and found out what they wanted to learn about—business management, customer service, budgeting, etc—and is developing a workbook with those things in mind.
She also decided to offer a $500 grant three times a year to kids with their own businesses. Any child entrepreneur between the ages of seven and 13 can apply for a grant to help with their business.
“I thought that instead of making it a process to where kids just can sign up and get it, I wanted to make it a little bit more challenging,” said Okin of those who win a grant. “They’re having to complete an application. They’re having to complete a budget if they don’t already have one for their business. And they’re having to be accountable for the funds that they receive.”
The first winner of a grant was Madyson Amour Johnson from Virginia. Johnson is a third-grader, and started her candle and lip balm business during the pandemic. She came up with the idea to make candles with her mom, Tiffany, and because she loves the smells of different types of candles.
“I like that I can make items to sell that people actually like and even like enough to purchase,” said Johnson. “I also like that I am learning about business and my business will grow with me as I grow and will continue to help me prosper in the future. I really like the entire process from start to finish, melting the wax, creating the scents that fill the entire fulfillment center and packing the customer orders for shipment!”
Johnson plans on using her grant money to purchase more supplies and inventory for her business. In the future, she wants to open a sister company called Amour Always, where she will create and sell affirmation cards, calendars and journals “to encourage young girls to chase their dreams and believe that they can do anything that they put their mind to.”
Currently, Okin has published two children’s books: “Mason Makes Money” and “Joseph the Great,” about a kid who is moving from his hometown to New York City. She plans on writing more about a variety of topics in the future. A coloring book called “The Colors of Success” is coming out soon, and is aimed at 4- to 6-year-olds that helps to reinforce concepts of money management. Okin is also planning on launching a kid entrepreneur conference in the next few years, where kids across the country will be able to have hands-on mentorship and training.
“My hope is that kids that we touched in any capacity understand that if you put something into the universe, and you’re serious about it and you work toward it, that you have support,” said Okin. “This is a viable career pathway, and you have support for that.”
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