Miriam Schwartz, 13, of Pikesville had dreams of the fun activities she’d partake in and the new friends she’d meet at Camp Shoresh this summer.
When camp was canceled, she turned her focus to the business she started in December of 2019, IBuild by Miriam, where she assembles Ikea furniture and the like.
She is just one of many children taking up creative projects this summer to replace camps.
“I found that I really liked making money, but didn’t like babysitting,” said Miriam, whose family belongs to Ner Tamid. What she did enjoy was building things. “I know it’s really annoying for some people [to put furniture together], and they’re like, ‘how do I do this?’ And I just put it together like ‘like this,’” she laughed modestly.
The crafty entrepreneur has assembled 37 pieces as of June 9, averaging one a day.
Her interest in construction sprouted when her school had students put cubicles together. Then, her first paid job was twin beds, which she took from her house and reassembled at someone else’s. From there, she took on a job to make a bookshelf, and soon enough had people contacting her consistently.
Though a mechanical wiz, an egg chair recently challenged her. “It was very annoying to put together, but there was just one tool that we needed. The instructions were separate,” she said. “It had a dome shape and we had to get that to fully extend, but it wasn’t doing that. It was a weird shape to work with.” Miriam still figured it out. When she is stumped though — a word that isn’t really in her vocabulary — Miriam will imagine the project as a 3D geometric puzzle.
When the country reopens, she won’t let the business fall by the wayside. Instead, “I want to make it even more than a side gig. I want to be able to leave this community and broaden it.”
Meanwhile, her buddy Naomi Oshry, of Mt. Washington, is working on a book titled “The Lost Heir.”
“There’s this girl named Shadow,” Naomi, 12, explained in a soft voice. “She is a virus in a game but she gets glitched out of it, and it follows her through the game to get back home.”
Naomi started the book last year, and is already at about 100 pages. She expects to write another 100 before it concludes.
“I came up with Shadow a long time ago. She was really meant to be a character I could insert into any book and change the story to fit for her,” said Naomi. Shadow was a poem at first. “Then I got into video games and made her into a virus person. I really like this game called Minecraft so I based it on that.” She made a whole family of characters based on the concept.
Though she’d hoped to attend BT Camps, Naomi is a bookworm at heart. “I really like reading a lot, and I find it really cool that people can write about all these different people who are not real but feel so real. I feel like I’m actually there watching it happen,” she said, her voice rising with passion. “And there’s also this series I was reading based off of Minecraft, which I found cool. It inspired me to write because I had a lot of ideas in my head that would make great stories.”
Another “great story” can be found in Park Heights, where 7-year-old entrepreneur Hillel Bailey is making his own diaper cakes, which are centerpieces for baby showers.
“One of the reasons this got started was someone went to buy us diapers for our kids. But they came back with these humongous boxes of newborn-sized ones bought with a [nonreturnable] gift card, and I didn’t have a newborn. So we ended up making diaper cakes for our friends’ [baby showers] rather than getting upset at them,” said Hillel’s mother, Julia Bailey.
Hillel has learned how to shop for supplies, take money to the bank, create a checking account, make deposits, and count money. And he started this financial learning journey when he was just 5.
“My sister had a business babysitting so I got jealous so I made up a diaper business,” said Hillel. He hopes to continue it and one day own a store for the business.
Basya Sara Bitman, 14, has had more time with her summer job, babysitting, to really get to know the kids she watches.
She originally hoped to attend a sleepaway camp. But, she’s enjoying teaching a 5-year-old physics.
“The boy wanted to learn a lot, so I’d share my science lessons with him,” she said. Though school is out, this ambitious girl is bringing the classroom with her. “I taught him about force and pressure, and he started asking a lot of questions.” So her solution, rather than giving him candy or plopping him in front of a TV, was to take water bottles and punch holes in them — no, not out of anger, but for the sake of science.
“You take a bottle and poke three holes in it. Then you cover the holes [one by one] and see if the top or bottom has more [water come out].”
While Basya enjoys her time with the little ones, she hopes things get better soon. “My mom watches the news a lot and was very aware about coronavirus, and she predicted everything. She was like, ‘You’re not going to see your uncle in New York.’ We’ve been joking about it. … I hope things get better, but I’ve made the best of things. I’m spending time with my sisters, driving my brother crazy, and our parents have been good at planning trips for us to look forward to.”
Pikesville resident Dici Subbag, 13, and his younger brother Yair, 11, are Baltimore’s own mini Property Brothers.
They learned how to refurbish furniture after watching their mom, Miriam Sevy, paint furniture in her free time. After the boys painted a mirror’s frame, they stepped back and realized it could be a good way to make money.
Originally, their 2020 summer was supposed to be about going to Toronto to see their grandparents, and Yair going to a JCC camp. While they were disappointed about their plans not working out, they are eager to pick up clients with this summer project.
If interested in their services, please text Sevy at 347-576-9174. She noted that she’s a busy mom who can’t always pick up the phone.
And what have the boys learned so far besides the skill itself? “Not to get caught in the rain!”