At age 10, Amerie Akuffo debuted her business, Naturallie Amerie, at the 2019 Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival.
BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Entrepreneurship has always been a significant component of the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival (TBCGF). It is an opportunity for small grassroots businesses to introduce themselves to the community as they start or expand their companies in the Tampa Bay area. Last year, the festival had 105 vendors and non-profits in attendance.
Sprinkled throughout the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival, there are sometimes young relatives assisting their families who are vendors in different ways, from restocking, packaging, selling and sometimes supplying information on a particular product. It is a chance for them to experience firsthand the basic business principles.
Amerie Akuffo is one young lady who has forged a unique path. At age 10, she debuted her own business, Naturallie Amerie, at the 2019 TBCGF. From then until now, she has been the only child vendor at the festival.
Amerie’s mother, Samantha Harris, and her sister, Avalon Staley, started the legacy in their family of empowered women business owners. Harris is the owner of 1st Book Club Publishing Company, Inc., a marketing company for authors. Her sister started Guided Stationary, a company that hopes to enhance your journey with Christ through journaling.
It was Harris’ mom who motivated Amerie to start her business.
“If you do what you love, money will follow,” Harris explained.
“Well, I liked slime,” Amerie giggled. “It was my hobby; my little sister and cousins liked it.”
Her recipe for slime was partially made from a concoction of contact solution, baking soda, food coloring, liquid glue and other ingredients. It was a hit at the festival; she sold the slime for five dollars a container, and her love of being her own boss was born.
Now 14 years old, this dynamic teen has transitioned from selling slime as her only product to creating hand-crocheted items. Her paternal grandmother, Valorie Akuffo, introduced her to crocheting during visits to her Maryland home.
Amerie’s signature designs include hats, scarves and other items. She has an extensive line of products that range from $12 for a bottle swing to $100 for a custom-designed off-the-shoulder ruffled dress.
Amerie is a freshman at Gibbs High School in the Business, Entrepreneurial, Technology Academy (BETA). BETA has several concentrated areas of study that include business supervision and management, digital media, photo, video, film production and gaming.
“They emphasize critical analyzation and collaboration,” Amerie said of the innovative program.
I questioned Amerie’s mom if she had any concerns about her daughter’s new business interfering with her academic studies.
“Absolutely not,” Harris replied emphatically. “She’s always kept an A average academically, and it seems to come naturally for her. When she’s in something, she’s all the way in.”
“As long as I worked hard and did my best, my mom never said too much about my studying,” Amerie said.
However, Harris offered her daughter several business tips that she felt would be helpful.
“Be organized,” Samantha stressed. “Make lists of everything you need, including extra chargers and extra material.” She advised her daughter always to try to create a quality product for people to purchase and to learn how to engage her customers.
One of the most critical aspects of business that her mom emphasized was for her daughter to learn how to price her product correctly.
“She needed to know that she had to factor in not only the cost of materials but also to factor in her time in making the product,” explained Samantha.
According to Amerie, the startup of her business led to self-discovery.
“I can lead myself,” Amerie stated confidently. “I’m my own boss, and I like to go with what I like. I follow the beat of my own drum.”
Amerie said she has also learned that creating a product that everyone likes is difficult. “It’s hard to be inclusive for everyone,” she stated.
The future CEO still thinks it’s a good idea for more pre-teens and teens to establish their own businesses, and like her mom, she stresses organization.
“Always be organized. Write down your idea or thoughts.”
This energetic young lady already has firm plans. She wants to expand her business once she is confident that it is well organized and has learned how to boost her marketing skills.
For her future studies, she is interested in an art school specializing in the study of fibers and materials or a college known for economics, marketing, and technology.
Her mom wants parents to encourage their children to explore the world of entrepreneurship.
“Find out what they like, and don’t judge it,” Harris said. “I’ve given my kids the space to do it. Allow your child to show you what they’re interested in.”
“I love people who don’t judge me and support me,” said Amerie. “I feel that my coach, teachers, parents, friends and everyone has supported me.”
The Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival arrives Feb.18, from 10-5 p.m. at the Woodson Museum, 2240 9th Ave. S, St. Petersburg.