River was the eldest — she arrived two minutes before her brother — and the first to start her own business. In 2020, she looked for a creative outlet to keep herself busy while she put her extracurricular activities on hold. She turned to beads, rope and YouTube tutorials for help.
“I was watching one of my shows at the Kennedy Center and it closed because of COVID-19,” said the actress, who recently performed “Freaky Friday” with a Virginia theater company. “I decided to give it a try, so I started making Friendship bracelet.”
The following year, she returned to school with a handmade necklace and bracelet. Her friends also asked her to make jewelry for them. Their interest in her designs gave her the idea and confidence to start her company, River Khai Beads. She has since expanded her collection to include Crocs rings, earrings, paintings, candles and charms.
“I set goals for myself. Make at least two bracelets a day and content at least three times a week,” River said. “I also want to inspire other young girls to start businesses.”
Ryder worked for his sister before founding Ruff Ryder Dog Toys. “I was her banker and financial person, but she didn’t really pay me,” he said. “So I decided I needed to start my own business.”
His parents asked him to start a business without any external costs, such as the cost of raw materials. They gave him a box of old white T-shirts they planned to give away. He spent weeks researching ideas before finding a dog toy made from recycled shirts.
“I get the material from donations, so it’s good for the environment, and I donate to the Pit Bull Foundation,” said Ryder, who tested his tug toy on his two dogs, Rebel and Remington, Pit Bull and American Star Fordshire Bull Terrier mix.
To make the toys, he cut T-shirts into four strips, stretched the fabric, and braided them. On some models, he added a tennis ball.
“I figured it out pretty quickly, and I just started to hone them,” said Ryder, a Wiz Kids dancer for the Washington Wizards. “In my first week, I made about 20.”
Ryder has sold about 100 Tugboat toys since it started business last year, several of which were purchased at the show. He plans to expand to other species. He was eyeing the cat toy market and his sister’s feather box.
Towards the end of the fair, 16-year-old entrepreneur Piya Scielzo, who organized the event, announced the awards.
At a trade fair in September, River won the award for the company with the most commercial potential. Three months later, Ryder won the award for best speaker.
“His table was colorful and bright, and he demonstrated,” said Pia, who also served as a judge. “His business is also 100% sustainable and he donates the proceeds.”
Asked how he felt about the honor, Ryder looked at his sister and said, “If one of us wins, we all win.”