Children’s expo features youth entrepreneurs

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Katrelia Johnson wants her daughter and children like her to grow up knowing they have options with what they want to do with their lives.

“I am so passionate about giving the youth better opportunities than what I had growing up,” she said. “Growing up back in South Carolina, a small town, I wasn’t knowledgeable about a lot of different avenues of income – I can be my own boss, or I can work for someone else. We weren’t taught about different options that were available. We were always pushed to find a job, get a job, instead of creating jobs.”

Johnson wants to make sure youth today in Hoke County know they can become their own boss someday, with an upcoming event focused on giving them a taste of entrepreneurship.

The Darling Shanta’s Children Entrepreneurs Expo is set for September 17 from noon-5 p.m. It will be held at East Hoke Middle School in the gymnasium, located at 4702 Fayetteville Road. Terraine François is serving as co-host for the expo.

The event will feature over a dozen tables by children entrepreneurs eager to talk with visitors about their ideas and creations. The expo is free and open to the public. Members of the public are encouraged to come out and give the youth a chance to sell their products.

“Some make jewelry, some will be selling t-shirts, some will be selling cupcakes, all kinds of things,” Johnson said.

The expo is meant to give youth a chance to explore their creative side while learning about what it takes to run their own business.

“It teaches them to respect money, it teaches them great work ethics, it teaches them to be persistent, to be creative thinkers, critical thinkers. It will give them so many different avenues to be successful,” Johnson said.

A lot of the children participating are from Hoke County. Johnson opened registration to all interested youth in the Sandhills, so some of the participants are from surrounding areas, too.

Parents are asked not to be as involved with the event to allow children to experience what it’s like to be a business person, she added.

There will be awards for the participants and for the top three tables at the expo. Motivational speakers, local elected officials and others are on the schedule to attend. There will also be music, food and games at the event.

Johnson said she hopes the community will turn out to support the young business people with their ventures.

“I want them to come out to this event and shop with the youth, give them some encouraging words and let them be able to see that the community is supporting them with their presence,” she said.

This is the first time Johnson has hosted the expo, and hopes to repeat it in the future.

“I would like to take this event a little father than just entrepreneurship. I would like to take it where kids can learn about business planning,” she said. “I want it to go where kids can learn about financial literacy, all the ins and outs about having a business.”

The expo is looking for adult volunteers to help with the event. Anyone interested in helping, or a parent with a child who may be interested in participating in a future expo can contact Johnson at, or visit

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