If you were looking for some inspiration to start something new this 2021, look no further than seven-year-olds Briella Rodney and Kaylin Kjemhus.
The two young entrepreneurs got the inspiration for their new company Hago (or Higo, Heygo, there are different spellings) when they were fundraising for the Terry Fox Run. The business name came from a friendship bracelet Briella made with the words Ha and Go on them, and the idea to make their business a non-profit venture came shortly after.
“After we thought of the name, Kaylin and me thought maybe we could make a surprise, as this Christmas not everyone (would) get presents in the hospital,” Briella said. “Family isn’t going to get to visit as much, so we decided if they had a present maybe it would be funner,” Kaylin added.
The pair began working furiously, spending time before and after school and at recess figuring out how to raise money and beginning to manufacture handmade holiday ornaments. The crafting went on until 9 p.m. and well after bedtime in the Rodney household, Briella’s mom Laina Rodney confirmed. “I like making people really happy,” said Briella about her motivation to work so hard.
Kaylin’s auntie Rea also contributed hand painted ornaments to sell.
And after sharing their new business on Facebook, orders began streaming in from friends and community members. Both Taylor Kjemhus, Kaylin’s mom, and Laina couldn’t believe the success they were seeing. Support came in from all corners of the community, and it came in fast. The first week and a half saw $1,300 raised, the second week topped that with $1,500 raised. “(We’re) just really inspired by the girls and really wanting to give back to people who have just been working so hard this year,” Taylor said.
“I was sort of expecting it because I knew I was making ornaments every day and I knew I would get a whole lot of money and by, I don’t know, maybe one week we had $1,000,” said Kaylin.
Within three weeks, the duo had raised over $3,000, which went to gifts for kids at BC Children’s Hospital ($1,000) as well as an additional 175 $10 gift cards from three local cafes, and over $250 in chocolate and cookies from the Rolling Pin for local workers.
The funnest part, Kaylin said, was loading up shopping carts with gifts. “Going to Walmart and just going ‘we want this and we want this, and this’ and we would see all sorts of funny things and cool things,” she said. “We got two carts full and then there was a bit sort of overflowing.”
For Briella, shopping was “a little bit difficult” as many of the toys they bought she would like to hold on to, yet when asked if she was tempted to take any of them home she responded with a swift “no.”
When dropping off gifts to the children’s hospital, Laina was greeted by staff with a cart. “I said ‘you’re actually going to need a lot more carts,’ so they were very, very shocked that it came from two seven year olds,” she said.
Dropping off the giftcards and treats to every staff member at the Fraser Canyon Hospital and Fraser Hope Lodge, as well as the Hope RCMP detachment and the post office was an emotional experience. “Me and Briella were sort of crying,” Kaylin said of the experience. These stops were chosen as people working there had worked hard throughout the pandemic and during Christmastime.
For Laina, the gifts for BC Children’s were especially touching as she was in the hospital around twice a month with her son Elias prior to the pandemic. “I’ve been on the other end of it, [so] this was an emotional thing for me, just watching how much effort and time and energy they put into this and just how much they cared,” she said.
The two young entrepreneurs are far from finished, they’ve already prepared themselves for spring fundraising to benefit the cause of cancer. “Because they still haven’t figured out a cure that will exactly stop it and me and Briella are both sad because some of both of our relatives have cancer,” Kaylin said.
The business plan doesn’t stop there, in fall they are planning to sell hot cocoa and then do the ornament sales again at Christmas.
Look out for the Hago/Haygo/Higo lemonade and flower sales, as judging by their success this past December the pair are a force to be reckoned with.
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