Niles nonprofit makerspace recipient of AEP grant to fund offering

NILES — Getting funded is a big part of starting up as an entrepreneur. Three junior entrepreneurs have been given a step up from a grant funding, seed money and an educational program on entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurs are busy working on bringing their ideas to life at the Niles STEAM Room, 2601 N. Fifth St. According to Gail Bliss, director and self-proclaimed chief cook and bottle washer of the makerspace, the three students have been working through the “Teen Entrepreneur Toolbox” by Anthony O’Neal, partnered with Dave Ramsey, with instruction at the makerspace.

One of the directors at the makerspace, Kathy Joyce, wrote the grant application. The American Electric Power grant to the STEAM Room was $500 for three students to receive the instruction, utilize the space and equipment, and have $43 of seed money to create with.

The three students participating in the junior entrepreneurship program are all junior high aged. According to Bliss, there are two boys and one girl. One student is homeschooled, one attends Eastside Connections, and another attends Ring Lardner Middle School.

“We are going to have a space on our website that will be kind of a budding entrepreneur store,” Bliss said. “The students can post their things there. They can create their own website if they want, but for three months, they can list their items on ours and we will promote them.”

Bliss said after the three months, the entrepreneurs will hopefully be able to continue a membership with the money they have made and continue growing their businesses.

The makerspace has been working on finding opportunities for the junior entrepreneurs to further their businesses in cost-effective ways.

“They’re busy working on their projects and doing the prototyping right now,” Bliss said. “We are hoping they will have enough of it together, or have samples, to try to get them into the farmers’ market in Buchanan.”

The students involved with the course use both the space and the equipment available within the Niles STEAM Room. One of the students is creating picture frames using the Glowforge Laser 3-D printer and materials like glass and epoxy. Educational books with interactive components have been a part of another student’s planning.

As the students work through the “Teen Entrepreneur Toolbox” on Saturdays during a designated hour of class, the students will learn about eight steps in entrepreneurship from setting a goal to focusing on the future.

Bliss said it is the first time the Niles STEAM Room has put on a program like this one.

“We have never done this before,” Bliss said. “It’s a three-month process, and they can be a part of the program going forward. They will tell us what works and what doesn’t. The students are excited about that.”

She is excited to see what the students will create.

“They’re great kids,” Bliss said. “They’re working very hard.”

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