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'These kids need this' | 17 young entrepreneurs launch businesses in Louisville

During a year when record-setting violence makes headlines weekly, its programs like this and women like Rose Smith that will renew your faith.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rose Smith and the ACE Project are not new to making waves in the Louisville community. 

The program, called Academy of Child Entrepreneurship, is a first and is already paying off.

"These are life skills and these are going to help them with their college education, its going to help them find jobs and its going to help them be better citizens in their community, it's our community," Smith said.

On Sunday, 17 young entrepreneurs graduated from the year-long program.

Kiannia Davis, CEO Kiannia's Flawless Sweets, said, "I started my business one year ago and ever since then its picked up and its been really great."

Davis said her love for baking started in the kitchen with her grandmother. But her tasty treats caught the attention of friends and family so she started to sell them. 

Her parents glow with pride, while looking at her booth, "She has the gift, the drive, to go farther and farther. She does it all on her own. I'm so proud- I love that she has that drive in her."

Every entrepreneur had the desire to do more when they signed up for the Ace Project's Academy of Child Entrepreneurship last summer. The month-long program focused on finances, budgets, invoices, product design, marketing and matched the children with mentors.

Smith said, "I just felt like there's nothing like this. The young people being leaders and being able to own and operate their own and operate their own business and take pride."

Credit: WHAS-TV
Kiannia Davis, CEO Kiannia's Flawless Sweets

Throughout the process ideas became real, registered businesses, products were produced, marketing campaigns launch and items sold to customers. 

"My name is Nazzari Reed, I'm 12-years-old, in eighth grade, and this is my lemonade business called "Lemon and Gents." Reed's claim to fame is his lemonade made "gentlemen style". 

His booming beverage business is now a testament of the program that put him in a place to succeed. 

"When I came there, I didn't have none of this. None of this was even a thing," Reed said. 

He has already sold out of product on multiple occasions and had to put a limit on purchases to not negatively affect quality.

From lemonade, to lip gloss, to homemade ice cream and t-shirt graphic design, the businesses have no limit and the lessons are endless as well. 

Smith said, "These children are competent and capable and if we just give them the resources and the tools they need- look what they can do." 

Smith says the idea came to her mid-COVID-19. "It dropped into my spirit- the academy of child entrepreneurship 'ACE'."

Her non-profit ACE Project has been serving children for seven years, but never in those seven years has she revealed this reason behind her work with our city's young people.

Credit: WHAS-TV
Nazari Reed, CEO of Lemons and Gents

"I lost my son and I'm trying to be that person, to give these youth an outlet and opportunities where they don't go down that same road he went down," Smith said, "Maybe if there was a program or something else out there like this- maybe it would have turned out a little different." 

She points to the painful possibility that her son Cory Crowe's murder could have been prevented.

"This gets them off the street. They're able to have money. They don't have to go to the street for money. They can make their own money," Smith explained. 

Now, she's put seventeen children on a path full of promise that is paved with possibility. 

"You haven't seen nothing yet -- nothing yet. The best is yet to come." 

You can learn more about the young entrepreneurs by visiting the organization's Facebook page. 

Contact reporter Shay McAlister at smcalister@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Shay) and Facebook.