While some kids will spend this weekend playing video games and making TikToks, Aniki Allen and a group of enterprising kids will be at the Maplewood Mall to showcase their small businesses during the third-annual Yungpreneur Pop-Up Fair.
Allen, a ninth grader at Apple Valley High School, got into the entrepreneurial spirit five years ago when he started his own bowtie business with his mom, Marsha.
“My mom and me wanted to start an ice cream business,” Allen explains, “but it takes a long time and it’s a long process, so we just said no.”
Soon, another idea would take hold.
“My mom used to really dress me up all the time, and one day I was playing with Legos–because I’ve always been playing with Legos since I was a little kid–and I made a bowtie,” he says. “I showed my mom and she thought it was really dope.”
A few years later, Allen found a part he could add that would make it a wearable fashion piece.
“And that’s how I made Ice Cream Bowties,” he says. “The reason I call it that is because ice cream comes in different colors, and so do my bowties. When people eat ice cream, it tastes great, and when they wear my bowties, they feel nice. So it’s a win-win situation.”
Since then, Allen and his mom have grown Ice Cream Bowties into a respected fashion brand in Minnesota, participating in charity events, fashion shows, and pop-up shops. It was during one of these pop-up shops that he was encouraged to help other kids find a way to pursue their own dreams.
“We were at a pop-up one day and I said to my mom, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we created an opportunity for other kids who look like me–or all different ethnicities–to come together in one space where it’s all kids?’”
The result was the Yungpreneur Pop-Up Fair. This year’s event, taking place Saturday at Maplewood Mall, will feature more than 10 youth businesses and makers from all over Minneapolis and St. Paul, offering gifts, art, fashion, treats, and more.
Allen says word of mouth has helped him recruit other young entrepreneurs to participate in his events over the years, and he feels proud to help kids embrace their own creativity and make some money for all of their hard work.
“It’s been a blessing to help kids who want to own their own businesses,” he says. “This is a way for them to get more resources, put some money in the bank, or just have the money to go out and have some fun. They can go out to eat, go bowling–something like that. It’s cool they get to do that with their own money.”
Allen has become just as notable for his entrepreneurial spirit as his fashion sense over the past several years. Prior to the pandemic, Allen began hosting his own Yungpreneur workshops, which have attracted kids from all over the country. Two years ago, Allen received a Mayoral Proclamation from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter in celebration of Yungpreneur Day. And just this past year, Allen started a second fashion brand, the appropriately named Aniki Allen, which offers T-shirts, hoodies, hats, and more.
Both of Allen’s brands will be on display during this weekend’s event, but his plans extend well beyond Saturday.
“I really want to become a way bigger fashion designer,” he says of his goals for the future. “I see myself having my own store that is all Ice Cream Bowties and Aniki Allen wear. I just see it growing and growing.”
This weekend, however, is about giving his fellow young entrepreneurs a chance to shine.
“This event is for anybody who wants to see what these kids can do,” Allen says. “Maybe you have a kid or a grandkid who might get inspired and want to do this themselves next year. You might just find something great.”
IF YOU GO:
Yungpreneur Pop-Up Fair
1-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23
Click here for event details