By Tribune Content Agency, adapted by Newsela staff
The past year has been life-changing for Sumer Strawbree. She released her first coloring book filled with encouraging words for girls of color. In July, she returned to the children’s business fair where she first showcased it.
The 13-year-old’s real name is Lauryn Jones. She stood proudly at her booth at the Kid$ Bi$ Fair. She wore a pink blazer and strawberry earrings. She gave out signed copies of her first book, along with her two most recent books. Her first book, “Black, Brown and Beautiful,” sold more than 5,000 copies last year.
“It’s life-changing for me,” Sumer said. “I think it’s great to help change girls’ self-esteem and I’ve reached a big audience so far. It’s been a very exciting year.”
Sumer’s book was the success story of last year’s Kid$ Bi$ Fair. This year, the fair was even bigger. There were 80 booths packed inside the gym at a Florida school. Kids showcased their products from Boba tea and books to custom woodwork.
The fair is organized by Orlando Bal Vihar. The group provides a platform for young entrepreneurs. They are able to show off their brands and learn what it takes to operate a business. Sumer’s father has seen his daughter grow from a child bullied at school to a confident young businesswoman.
Sumer’s Work Resonates With Others
“She’s taking that energy and running with it,” said Everett Jones. “Seeing her walking in her purpose at 13 is amazing.”
As her books grow more popular, Sumer said she’s heard stories from other kids who have been bullied. They feel understood by her work.
“It’s pretty surprising,” she said. “I didn’t ever think I’d be sharing my story with other people, and it was great to learn that I wasn’t alone.”
Organizers of the fair hope Sumer’s success story is the first of many.
Four-Year-Old Has Published Three Books
Adity Gandhi is president of Orlando Bal Vihar. Sumer has been an inspiration for other kids, she said. She has created a brand for herself through socializing in person and on social media.
One of the kids Sumer has inspired is 4-year-old Sameer Jani. With his mother, he has self-published three books. They are about an alligator named Chocovela who overcomes fear as he learns how to surf and play soccer and tennis.
Chocovela comes from Sameer’s imagination. His mother, Zalina Jani, brings it to life on the page. The books also come with a vocabulary list for kids learning how to read and increase their vocabulary.
The message of the books is every child can succeed in whatever they dream, said Jani. Sameer also had a chance to meet Sumer, who partly inspired the books.
Kids Interact With Eager Customers
Jonathan Ponce is an 11-year-old woodworker who learned the craft from his father. He first learned how to use tools at 8. His first order was received last year for his company, JP Designs. He makes custom signs, dog bowls and key chains.
As his father watched from a distance, Jonathan charmed customers. He told them about his process and taking orders. He says the designs take about three to seven days to make. By the end of the day, he made hundreds of dollars.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the gym was a group of friends led by 10-year-old Isabella Contreras. Her company, The Boba Team, prepared drinks for lines of eager customers. The children, dressed in colorful hats and aprons, got to work.
The group had been making Boba for several months. It’s a chance, Isabella said, to put smiles on people’s faces.
Kids also learn how to expand their ideas once the event ends. Many of them will return next year. Sumer hopes to start working on animation and music as her books are becoming more popular.
“I’ve already sold books in 39 states, Germany, Sweden and Canada,” Sumer said. “I want to reach girls from all over the world.”