Arts and crafts are normally carefree, sedate activities, existing more as a hobby than anything else. But that’s not necessarily the case in the business world, where the concept of supply and demand becomes a real-life experience.
And in a capitalist society, it’s never too early to start showing your five kids how to think like an entrepreneur. During the downtime from the coronavirus pandemic, longtime Riverdale residents Jon and Yael Martin have done just that.
The couple wanted their children to stay productive in a meaningful way during the long and seemingly identical days which came and went in a summer unlike any other. The kids — ranging in age from 1 to 9 — answered the call by launching their own business.
Martin Kidz Crafts, as they ultimately called it, is a social-media operated shop selling accessories like mask holder necklaces and bracelets.
Maya, 9, took the lead on the project keeping her four younger brothers — Elan, Gabriel, Jack and Adir — busy helping out. Fittingly, the most valuable commodity in their inventory is a beaded necklace which latches onto face masks to avoid misplacing them.
“We did it to help people wear their masks, and it helps them look prettier and not lose their masks,” Maya said. “We get mask breaks in school for snack or lunch. This makes it easy to have my mask hang from my neck and not worry about losing it.”
What makes the Martin family’s shop unique in its own way — beyond the fact it’s run by young kids — is the customization aspect of the business. Whether making beaded bracelets or mask holder necklaces, the designs are almost always personalized, giving customers a tangible representation of the family’s love.
“Some people like to make up their own designs and then they say they want it,” said Elan, 8, who oversees packaging and labeling.
Gabriel is the middle child at 6 whose main task is quality control — which entails inspecting the product’s functionality upon completion and preparing free matching bracelets to also send to customers.
Rounding out the team of workers is Jack, 4, and Adir, 1, who, according to Maya, bring value with their “awesomeness and cuteness.”
The operations started in early summer when mask-wearing became the new norm. But the youngsters didn’t agree to take things to the “next level” until late July, according to Yael, right around the time they made an Instagram account. To date, Martin Kidz Crafts has amassed around $1,800 in profit — a stark contrast from the $50 profit the newly minted entrepreneurs thought they’d make at the beginning.
Luckily, their customers had other plans for them.
“When they made their first hundred dollars, there was a celebration,” Yael said. “And then again when they made $500. I was impressed, because even though they weren’t keeping the profits for themselves, they still felt so accomplished and proud.”
All five of the Martin children attend SAR Academy. When state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi visited the school, the Martin children noticed she didn’t have a mask necklace of her own. So they decided to design one for her and mail it to her office as a token of their appreciation.
Since the start of the new academic year, the children have had their organizational skills tested as they try to balance school work with the time required to produce the accessories. However, this experience outside the classroom offers its fair share of educational lessons as well — including the introduction of more advanced topics related to their business, like the basics of operating expenses and gross margin.
“It gave the kids a lot of insight into how business works,” Yael said. “I told them I’m happy to spend money on it, but you have to account for your sales and costs.”
Although they are busy tracking the influx of funds, the Martin family has no intentions of keeping a penny of what they make. All the proceeds have been given to Riverdale Hatzalah, a non-profit medical emergency corps which holds a special place in the hearts of the Martin family after having to rely on the service for a previous family emergency.
“When Jack was six months, he got very sick and Hatzalah helped him,” Maya said.
Donating to Riverdale Hatzalah felt right, Yael said, because of the hard work being done by the frontline workers there during the coronavirus pandemic.
“And because of corona, we realized that a lot of the Hatzalah workers are helping people everywhere,” Elan said.
For the past several months, people all around the world have worn face masks to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Mayo Clinic, a cloth mask effectively prevents droplets from going airborne when wearers talk, cough or sneeze. That has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization to include face masks in their list of recommendations.
The need for face masks around the world became more apparent once people started to get infected without showing symptoms — making them a touted safeguard, and thus a symbol of respect for the health of every individual.
But while some people are tiring of wearing masks in public — a symptom of so-called “pandemic fatigue” — the Martin family hopes its necklace holders make the practice of wearing masks more fun. The goal all along was to make people’s lives more enjoyable during a difficult time in the world — and their success thus far motivates them to continue.
And Yael couldn’t be more proud of her little workers.
“It kept them busy all summer,” she said, “further enforced the charitable values we are trying to instill in them, and it made mask-wearing exciting and fun for them and their customers.”