9-year-old uses down time amid virus to create business

By TOMMY BIRCH – Associated Press – Saturday, May 2, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Stifel is like any other new business owner. She came up with a business plan, a name for her company and a product that she’s been selling out of her makeshift office at home.

But there’s one major difference between her and most other small business owners.

is 9 years old.


“ amazes me every day,” said her mother, Leah Stifel. “She is so bright and loved by so many and she just has such a kind heart. I’m so proud of her. She works hard at everything she does. She always is successful when she puts her mind to it. When she gets determined, whatever she wants done, it gets done.”

, a fourth-grade student at Hubbell Elementary School in Des Moines, has found a unique way to stay busy and help families in need while kids are at home during the coronavirus pandemic. She started her own business called AJ’s Magnificent Minis, which sells homemade polymer miniatures that she turns into keychains, earrings, charms and figurines.

“It’s actually really, really fun,” told the Des Moines Register.

The idea started when Stifel saw her daughter was getting ready to ask for money in hopes of buying some AirPods. She told Alaina if she was going to get the money, she had to earn it.

One of the ways Stifel suggested her daughter earn money was by selling things. , a talented young artist, came up with an idea to create clay miniatures.

It seemed like the perfect idea to Stifel, a teacher in Des Moines, who thought it would be a good lesson for Alaina and help her pass the time while stuck at home.

“She’s got all of this free time on her hands,” Stifel said. “And she was getting anxious and nervous about it, so that was one of the other reasons that I really pushed her and said, ‘Do it, go ahead … I’ll support you with whatever you need.’”

drew up a business plan, made some samples, and with her mom holding cue cards, recorded a video pitching her product on Stifel’s Facebook page. The shares started rolling in immediately.

“It took over my entire Facebook,” she said.

The added attention forced the two to create a page just for the business. That’s where buyers can make their requests. Keychains and charms cost $18. Earings are $23.

wanted to help families in need during the pandemic and said she’s donating $1 from every purchase to the Food Bank of Iowa.

“The coronavirus is going around and I’ve heard that people do not have that much food,” said.

has made miniature slices of pizza, corn, baseballs, basketballs and more. She was even asked to make a figure depicting the Tiger King from Netflix. , who bakes the clay figurines in an oven, also handles hardware assembly and painting duties. She even packages every purchase and keeps track of sales in a spreadsheet.

She works out of the family’s living room on a fold-up desk that she shares with her mom. The products have been a hit, with more than 50 orders coming in.

“I thought I was only going to get like five or six people but I got way more,” said.

While the idea initially was to just buy AirPods, it’s now transformed into a fun and caring activity. Stifel, who encouraged her daughter to give some of the proceeds to others, was happy to see that was more than willing to help those in need.

“I’m definitely very proud of what a good kid she is and what a kind heart she has,” Stifel said.

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