POMEROY — Meigs County Innovative Youth Society (MCIYS) was the focus on opening day of the Meigs County Farmers Market (MCFM). Since the Market’s inception, both adult and youth entrepreneurs have been encouraged to turn their craft into a business. Veterans of farmers market selling have been enthusiastic mentors of new vendors, especially encouraging to interested youth.
To become a successful vendor and business owner takes more than a good idea, and many, lacking experience, are unsuccessful in marketing their product and become discouraged.
Having experienced the struggle themselves, Halo Rife and Cooper Schagel began a conversation on how to help other youth. What they thought was needed was a structured way to teach younger sellers best practices in business and marketing. Rife has been operating a successful art business since she was 13, and Schagel is known throughout the area for his photography. That’s when they came up with the idea of youth helping youth.
“All of the adults had been so supportive,” Rife said. “but we thought it would be helpful for us to have a program run by youth for youth.”
She said they knew they would need funding, so they turned to Meigs County Market’s Dixie Hawthorne.
“When I heard about MCIYS and what they wanted to do, I asked the market board if they would be okay with me writing for a grant to ‘pay forward’ what had been done for us financially when our market was started in 2019,” Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne wrote a proposal for a $7,500 grant that was approved by the market board: “The Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) Program of the Meigs County Health Department included funds in the 2019 CHC grant to start a farmers’ market in Meigs County. With the support of this grant and the local community, the market has become very successful. The Board of Directors would now like to pay forward the opportunity they were given by CHC.”
According to Hawthorne, the project supports the start-up of a business incubator for young entrepreneurs. She said for the past three seasons, the MCFM has had a booth featuring the wares of those 18 and under, so she and the market board were excited when a group of those youngsters, who already run successful businesses, expressed their desire to start an organization that mentors, supports, and aids existing and aspiring young business owners to develop and sustain their businesses into the future.
MCIYS’s goal is to create lasting businesses that are self sustaining and able to support the business owner financially. Hawthorne and MCFM Director Stephanie Rife said this was an impressive and important endeavor the group was purposing, and the idea that they could support this group financially as well as with their encouragement was something they immediately embraced.
“When you see youth doing something so positive, they need to be encouraged,” Hawthorne said. “These kids are just amazing in what they have been able to accomplish so far.”
Halo Rife, Cooper Schagel, and Storm Spears make up the board of MCIYS, and were excited to announce on Saturday that they had received non profit status. A private donor had come forward with a $5,000 grant once the group achieved this status.
“It is cool to be starting something to help incubate youth businesses,” Schagel said. “We wanted to create something for youth run by youth. We wanted to be able to share our experiences and struggles, and be an example to others.”
Spears said, “We are excited about the opportunity that we are creating in our community.”
Rife said their first day at the market went smoothly, and added that their work is only beginning. She shared they are looking for businesses to support the entrepreneurs by teaching what they have learned as well.
“We are creating classes in many different area, including business, marketing, crafting, farming, writing,” Rife said. “We have many youth with a variety of interests and are looking for people who would like to teach.”
Support for the MCIYS project was made possible with funding from the Rocky Community Improvement Fund and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation through a grant obtained by the Meigs County Farmers’ Market and private donations. For more information on how to support MCIYS, visit them on Facebook, call (740) 447-3081, or send an email to [email protected]
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Lorna Hart is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.