Navajo Kids' Candy Business Is a Sweet Success It's the holiday season, so it's no surprise that employees at Lickety Split Chocolate are hard at work. But this is no ordinary candy company. The CEO is 15 years old, and the other employees are even younger. But like any good entrepreneurs, these kids -- all from the Navajo tribe -- know a good business idea when they see it.
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Navajo Kids' Candy Business Is a Sweet Success

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Navajo Kids' Candy Business Is a Sweet Success

Navajo Kids' Candy Business Is a Sweet Success

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This DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

In southeastern Utah, a group of Navajo children spent the month pouring and dipping chocolate. These kids, who are all under 15 years old, have a chocolate factory that's been busy this holiday season.

Julie Rose of member station KCPW has our story.

JULIE ROSE: Three years ago, these kids were roaming their Utah town, begging for money to go to the movies.

(Soundbite of children)

ROSE: Today, they're making chocolate for a holiday order and expect their company's annual earnings to exceed $10,000. It all started one day when the kids arrived on Elaine Bland's doorstep. She'd recently moved to town, as a volunteer working on poverty issues. So rather than give the kids cash, she urged them to become entrepreneurs.

Ms. ELAINE BLAND (Volunteer): One of the kids said - why don't we make some chocolate lollipops - and everyone thought that was a great idea

ROSE: The children of Blanding, Utah are among the nation's poorest. Many live in trailers with parents who work low-wage jobs. Now, 35 of those Navajo children are the owners and executives of Lickity Split Chocolate LLC.

Ms. BLAND: This is one of our officers of our company. This is Hubert Dayish, and he's president of sales and marketing

ROSE: Hubert, you're 10 years old. I've never met a president of sales and marketing who's 10 years old before. How did you get this job?

Mr. HUBERT DAYISH (President, Sales and Marketing): Well, Elaine gave it to me by I walked out on my first day, and I asks some customers if they'd like to buy some chocolate.

ROSE: Aside for a knack for sales, Hubie, as the other kids call him, has a huge smile and round cheeks, often full of the products that don't pass quality control.

What have you got in your mouth there?

Mr. DAYISH: A truffle.

ROSE: What flavor is it?

Mr. DAYISH: Coconut.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROSE: His cousin, Andrew Dayish, has the same playful grin, but he's taller and more studious - suited to his position as the company's CEO.

Mr. ANDREW DAYISH (CEO): I'm 15 right now. I represent the company, so it's a lot of pressure, a lot of the responsibility. So that's why I have to - might actually go in there sometimes and supervise and make sure they're doing stuff right.

(Soundbite of banging)

ROSE: Today, Andrew is hands-on, using a rubber mallet to carve fist-sized chunks of chocolate from a huge block. Hubert holds up the company's bestseller - a lollipop in the shape of a Navajo Prayer basket.

Mr. H. DAYISH: It's like celebrated in like marriages and stuff like that. And it represents, like, life and why we're here on earth, and stuff like that.

ROSE: The Lickity Split company slogan is: Luscious Chocolate, Noble Cause -the cause being to help these kids rise out of poverty. Each month, the kids get a share of the profits, which usually runs about $20. Some have saved to buy bikes and computers. Andrew is saving for college. Hubert, on the other hand, bought flashy shoes, to the chagrin of his father, Chuck Dayish.

Mr. CHUCK DAYISH (Father): A hundred dollar shoes, I was like, uh. I try to encourage him to save it. But, you know, he's 10. What can you do?"

ROSE: Dayish works the long hours at a local restaurant as a cook and a busboy. He admits he's a little envious of the skills his son is learning - skills that are paying off. Lickity Split recently won a national award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. And this summer, the kids will fill their biggest order yet - for the Rotary International Convention. Convention organizer Paul Pugmire inked the deal after the kids traveled to Salt Lake City to make a sales presentation.

Mr. PAUL PUGMIRE (Organizer, Rotary International Convention): And I want to emphasize that our wanting to do business with Lickity Split is not a social service project. We want to do business with Lickity Split because they offer good chocolate.

ROSE: Elaine Bland believes the Rotary Convention will launch Lickity Split Chocolate into the big time, which is news to Hubert Dayish, who's already big time. On my way out the door, he slips me his business card. It says: Hubert Dayish, Head Scientist/President of Sales and Marketing.

For NPR News, I'm Julie Rose.

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