River was the firstborn — 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 her busy while her extracurricular activities were on hold. She turned to beads, string and YouTube tutorials.
“I was right in the middle of one of my shows” at the Kennedy Center, “and then covid shut it down,” said the actress, who recently performed in “Freaky Friday” at a Virginia theater company. “I decided I wanted to experiment, so I started making friendship bracelets.”
The next year, she returned to school wearing her handmade necklaces and bracelets. Her friends asked her to make them jewelry, too. Their interest in her designs gave her the idea, and the confidence, to launch her company, River Khai Beads. She has since grown her collection to include rings, earrings, paintings, candles and charms for Crocs.
“I set goals for myself. Make at least two bracelets a day and content at least three times a week,” said River. “I also want to inspire other younger girls to start their business.”
Ryder used to work for his sister before striking out on his own with Ruff Ryder Dog Toys. “I was her banker and financial guy, but she didn’t really pay me,” he said. “So I decided that I needed to make my own business.”
His parents requested that he create a business without any outside expenses, such as for raw materials. They offered him a box of old white T-shirts they had planned to give away. He spent a few weeks researching ideas before landing on dog toys made out of upcycled shirts.
“I get my materials from donations, so it’s good for the environment, and I donate to a pit bull foundation,” said Ryder, who tests his tug toys on his two dogs, Rebel and Remington, a pit bull and American Staffordshire pit mix.
To construct the toys, he cuts T-shirts into four long strips, stretches the fabric and then braids the pieces. On some models, he adds a tennis ball.
“I caught on really quickly, and I just started grinding them out,” said Ryder, who is a Wiz Kids dancer with the Washington Wizards. “In my first week, I made about 20.”
Ryder has sold about 100 tug toys since he launched his business last year, including several purchased at the fair. He plans to expand into other species. He is eyeing the cat toy market and his sister’s bins of feathers.
Toward the end of the fair, Piya Scielzo, the 16-year-old entrepreneur who had organized the event, announced the awards.
At a September fair, River clinched the prize for the company with the highest business potential. Three months later, Ryder won for best presentation.
“His table was colorful and bright, and he did a demonstration,” said Piya, who also served as a judge. “His business is also 100 percent sustainable, and he donates the proceeds.”
When asked how he felt about the honor, Ryder looked over at his sister and said, “If one of us wins, we both win.”