By Cathy Jett The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 9 year old Jelani Jones launched "Lani Boo Bath" in October. Her parents helped with startup costs for such ingredients as the baking soda, rice bran oil and fragrances needed to make the effervescent balls of perfumed color.
Nine-year-old Jelani Jones had so much fun taking a class in making fizzy bath bombs two years ago that she asked for the teacher's business cards.
On the way home, her mother asked Jelani what she'd call a business if she had one of her own.
"Lani Boo Bath!" Jelani said without a moment's hesitation. "Lani Boo" is her grandmother's nickname for the Faith Baptist School fourth-grader.
"It was just a casual conversation," said Crystal Jones, Jelani's mom.
But Jelani was serious.
The budding Spotsylvania County entrepreneur launched Lani Boo Bath in October. Her parents helped with startup costs for such ingredients as the baking soda, rice bran oil and fragrances needed to make the effervescent balls of perfumed color.
Her first customers were friends, family and members of her church, Strong Tower in Stafford County. Now she also sells at local craft fairs and ships orders as far away as Colorado and Florida.
"I have a Facebook page and we're starting an Etsy page and a website," Jelani said. "We already have a domain name."
Jelani makes many of the bath bombs herself, mixing ingredients in the family kitchen. Adding a few drops of scent makes them smell like rose petals, her best seller, or berry brew, her favorite. A bit of liquid color tossed in helps increase the effect.
Nothing goes to waste, Jelani said during a recent bath bomb making session. Any ingredients that dry out before she can scoop them up using two halves of a clear plastic mold are stored in plastic baggies. Later, she can toss them into another batch to create two-toned effect.
Emerald Bee Bath owner Christi Carter, who taught Jelani how to make bath bombs, has been mentoring her, and she's also getting help through SheEO, an enrichment and career exploration program where girls outwardly express their dreams, set goals, write plans, innovate, talk business and finance, embrace their differences and identify big opportunities.
A straight "A" student, Jelani's learned how to budget her time so she can fit in the business with homework, dance class, church and a girls' ministry.
"I have a schedule so I can fit everything in," she said matter-of-factly.
Jelani also has learned how to write a business plan and figure out how much to charge for her products. She's already helped do her business's taxes, and has expanded her line to include handmade soaps. And she's gotten some of her young friends interested in starting businesses of their own.
"She does not want me or her dad doing things for her business without her present," said Crystal Jones. "If she can't help directly, she is doing something to contribute."
Marcel Jones, Jelani's dad and an attorney with a law firm in Fredericksburg, does help out with the technical end of things, as well as taking orders, sending invoices and packaging orders. Crystal Jones, who's a psychotherapist with a private practice in Fredericksburg, pitches in when Jelani has lots of orders to fill.
"By the time Christmas came around, we were a bath bomb factory," she joked. "Everyone at the post office knew us. Dec. 17 was the last mailing. Then we took a break."
Crystal Jones said that her daughter is gaining social skills as she sells her products at craft shows, and she recently spoke to Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority pageant participants about pursuing their dreams.
"Jelani is very confident, smart and insightful," Crystal Jones said. "We want her to recognize that there are no limits to what she can accomplish with God, determination and a supportive village."
Jelani already has some goals in mind. She wants to go on a Mediterranean cruise to see places in Italy and Greece that she'd learned about in second grade. And, when she grows up, she wants to own a family-style, soul food restaurant.
"I just want to be the boss," she said.