A Little Alaska is all about connecting with and valuing teens for who they are and providing them a safe space to stretch their wings and increase their confidence and independence while also recognizing our interdependence with all things. It’s something we’ve done for years with local teens - going on trips with them, playing games with them, going hiking, making food with and for them, helping them plan fun activities... We’re so grateful they let us hang out with them and include us in their world. And that they don’t hide who they are and feel comfortable to be truly and wholly themselves with us.
Another adventure we’ve had with a few teens is starting up and running a hair adornment business. It began in the spring of 2016 when I was in line in a cafe in Portland, Oregon. The woman in front of me had hair that was twinkling. Yes, twinkling. I couldn’t make out what it was. Glitter? Tinsel? Curiosity got the best of me and I asked the woman what it was. “Faery Hair” she said with a big smile on her face. “You can get it at my shop every Friday!”
And so the next Friday found me at the magical Fernie Brae shop in Portland. I walked out of there with 12 hair sparkles tied into my hair by the lovely Sera Faery. As I was getting them tied in, I asked Sera how she learned to do this. She graciously gave me the name of a how-to video.
As soon as I got back to where we were staying in Portland I watched the video. Then I ordered a pixie pick (aka knit picker) and glittery hair tinsel. I couldn’t wait to get back home and learn how to tie them into hair. I loved them and I knew other people would too. I figured I could set up a booth at our annual Salmon Jam music festival in Cordova and make some spending money. And do the same at the two unschooling conferences we attend every year, Life is Good and Free to Be.
We got back to Cordova and I first practiced the knot with two pieces of string. When I felt I had that down my son kindly let me practice on him. Then I asked another friend if I could practice on her hair. She had already fallen in love with the sparkly strands in my hair so was very happy to volunteer her head. While I was at her house practicing tying them in, her then 14 year old daughter Alena asked if she could try. Of course! I showed her and helped her figure it out. She was a natural.
A few days later I saw a flyer in the grocery store announcing the start of a monthly Saturday market. I thought that would be a great place to set up and tie strands into hair. Except I really wasn’t into doing it by myself. So I let the idea of setting up at the market go. Then it hit me, maybe Alena would do it with me! She was delighted to. And so was born The Sparkle Sisters.
Alena and I had great fun and success at the first market. People called and asked us to sparkle at birthday parties and other events. My son insisted we needed a Facebook page and set one up for us. It was the month of May and Alena was due to be leaving on her family’s tug boat for a month in Prince William Sound in mid June. We decided to ask another teen and friend, Serena, if she would like to join us. Serena was over the moon excited to come on board.
The three of us have been sparkling over three years now and it’s been a lot of fun. This past summer we set up shop in Fairbanks at the Midnight Sun Festival, our first foray out of Cordova. We’ve taken turns filling out the quarterly city sales tax statement, have business meetings and have a document memorializing our business decisions. We discuss things like if someone wants us to come to their house for a private meeting, should we have a minimum amount they must purchase? If we are all working an event and someone gives a tip is that for the business or the individual who sparkled the hair?
I’ve really enjoyed interacting with these two teens on a business level. I think it’s been empowering for them to be equal members of a real business. We’re all figuring it out together. I’ve never run this kind of a business so I can’t presume to know all the answers and don’t want to make business decisions by myself. Sure, I have more life experience than they do but they have their own experiences and ideas and I love to hear them. It all goes back to one of our core principles of valuing teens for who they are and providing them a safe space to stretch their wings and increase their confidence and independence while working together and collaborating as a team.
I hope you spot joy in your day. Sparkle on!
Molly Mulvaney is an unschooling mom with a part time law practice. She, her husband and teen son live in Cordova, Alaska. Their venture, a little alaska...BIG FUN is a unique opportunity for small groups of teens to stay, play and grow with them in an eclectic town on the edge of the wilderness. Teens have fun, trust themselves, grow their confidence and increase their independence while seeing first hand our interdependence with all things. You are invited to join us for epic adventures and respectful appreciation of the natural world and our place in it.