Expo spotlights budding young entrepreneurs

May. 31, 2014 @ 05:13 PM

Tyler Cozart can’t drive. He can’t vote. He can’t drink. But, that wasn’t stopping the 11-year-old from creating his own business.

And he’s not the only young person in Durham creating a business.

On Saturday, Cozart and other young entrepreneurs came together for the first Young Entrepreneur’s Expo, sponsored by the Patricia Taborn Modeling and Talent Agency, INC. (PMTA), a local non-profit.

The expo was held at The Hayti Heritage Center, and allowed for performances throughout the duration of the event.

Cozart has been making and selling jewelry under “Tyler’s Inspiration” since he was about 9 years old.

He got his start after his sister began making jewelry, and didn’t let him help.

“So, I decided to buy my own material and started making it myself,” he said. After he started making jewelry, he decided to sell it.

For Cozart, when he’s designing his jewelry, he wants to not only make an aesthetic statement, but also a statement for other young people to take away.

“You can do more than just sit in the house and watch TV,” he said. “You can actually do something to make money and you can develop a business to make it bigger.”

Cozart said his family was very supportive of his business.

His mother, Rhonda Cozart is the director of PMTA. She said her entire family, not just Tyler, is involved in entrepreneurship.

In creating the expo, the goal was to focus on the youth.

“Durham youth gets such negative publicity,” Rhonda Cozart said. “We wanted the city of Durhm and other surrounding cities to know that Durham has some positive youth and they’re doing some positive things.”

The expo also set out to help encourage young people to get into entrepreneurship and give young businesspeople an outlet to show their talents.

Another one of the young entrepreneurs was 19-year-old Erim Akpan.

Her business, The Origami Garden, came about when she was Tyler Cozart’s age, when her mother introduced her to the paper-folding art.

Originally, her business started as a way to make money when she wasn’t old enough to get a traditional job.

Now, the soon-to-be sophomore at N.C. Central University is studying entrepreneurship and marketing, in hopes of starting her own business after graduating.

“This is good practice (for my future business),” Akpan said. “I’d really hate to have to go to an office every day for the rest of my life.”

For some like the Cozart family, entrepreneurship becomes a family affair, especially at a young age.

Her mother, the namesake of the PMTA, instilled the values of entrepreneurship in her family at an early age, and since then Rhonda Cozart and her siblings have been working to let young people know that they too can succeed.

“I think it’s important for young people to know that they have options,” Rhonda Cozart said. “They can help boost the economic development in their area as well.”

Organizers hope to keep the expo going as an annual through PMTA. At Saturday’s event, there were 16 booths of young entrepreneurs, ranging in age from 9 years old to 20 years old.