The Littlest Entrepreneur

Team 1by Craig A. Ruark

Born in Indiana of immigrant parents from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Nana Sarfo has lived most of her young life in Las Vegas and is the CEO of a convention company that will bring over 800 attendees to the Henderson Convention Center this summer. But the story of this littlest entrepreneur starts many years
earlier.

As a young child, Sarfo did not like playing with dolls. Instead, she was attracted to Littlest Pet Shops (LPS) toys. These rubbery plastic, three-inch-tall, cartoonish-animals with bobbleheads, were introduced with great success in the early 1990s. They became even more popular in 1995 as characters in an animated television series. Manufactured by Hasbro, there are over 870 different pets ranging in price from $5.00 to $5,000.00 depending on the popularity of the character and the production numbers.

“Sometimes, LPS Tubers [the name for people that collect the toys and post videos of their collections on
YouTube] don’t have support from parents who are like—you need to grow up—you need to get rid of
all these toys. Also, some don’t want to share it [the fact that they are collectors], because they are
afraid of people picking on them,” said Sarfo.

At the age of 12 and seeing the need for a safe place where collectors can share their LPS interests and
hobbies with others, Sarfo developed the idea for LPSCon, an annual convention modeled after
ComicCon.

In 2016, at the age of 13, she hosted her first convention at North Tower Park, a public park in
Summerlin, with 16 attendees and Sarfo’s mom providing snacks and waters. “It was more like a play
date, and I only expected a few local people to show up, but I found that people were driving over from
L.A. and Wisconsin, and I’m like, WOW! exclaimed Sarfo.

In 2017, year two, Sarfo’s parents realized that she was planning an actual convention. The event, which
grew to 35 attendees, was again held at North Tower Park with an upgrade that included a tent and
music.

The demographic for LPSCon is age 8 – 16, but attendees are as young as four and teens as old as 19
participate. “Sometimes the moms get more excited than the kids and are doing the trades for them at
the convention, and that’s always really fun to see,” said Sarfo.

“However,” Sarfo explained. “The one-day conventions, which were held from 10 am to 5 pm on a
Saturday in June, were burning hot. I didn’t want to host another event outside. Then 2018 comes along,
and I’m like—I need to find a venue—and quick.”

While looking for venues, Sarfo was asked to estimate the number of people that would attend. “I’m
like, I don’t know, maybe 50. And that’s like the biggest lie of 2018,” Sarfo chuckled. & “I opened ticket
sales, and people started buying the tickets—and buying, and buying, and buying—until I had 180
people. I panicked and stopped selling tickets.” The venue that she had selected would only handle 80
people.

Faced with having to find a larger venue, Sarfo’s parents convinced her to reopen ticket sales just to see
how many would sell. Sarfo agreed but decided to raise the price of the tickets thinking that if people
really wanted to attend, they would pay the higher price of $45.00, that included a late fee, but with the
goal of discouraging many more ticket buyers. To her surprise, over the next two days, she had a total of
362 people signed up for her ‘sold out’ event.

“I was so excited but freaking out because I literally did not have a venue.” Sarfo and her parents
searched appropriate locations for two months in January and February of 2018 until she found the
Henderson Convention Center.

Coincidently, in February of 2018, The Meadow’s School, which Sarfo attends, held a business pitch
competition with a $25,000 prize. A panel of six investors, Erick Kurtzman, CEO and co-founder
Kurtzman Carson; Todd Spector, CEO at The ASNY Company; Theresa Fette, president of Provident Trust
Group; Mike Borden, former president and founder of Switch Communications; B.C. LeDoux, chief
creative officer and managing director at Noble Studios; and Brad Howard, CEO at Trend Nation LLC,
judged the business pitches.

While preparing her entry for the competition, Sarfo reflected on her goal, “I really didn’t need funding.”
Based on the cost of the Henderson Convention Center venue and the amount of money raised through
ticket sales, LPSCon was profitable. “So, it was more about the teaching, and the expertise they [the
judges] can give me as actual business people because I have nobody to teach me that.”

On the day of her pitch, Safro’s passion was evident in her presentation, “They had to cut me off
because that was long,” she gasped. “The pitch was supposed to be 30 minutes, but I could not sum-it-
up—they gave me an hour, and I still wasn’t done, and when I stopped, the judges just sat there with
their jaws dropped.”

Safro won the competition but not wanting to give up too much of her corporation, she decided to only
accept $20,000 of the prize money. As a result, each of the judges sit as members of the LPSCon board
of directors and provide valuable advice and direction for the growth of the company.

For this young entrepreneur, 2018 turned out to be a very important year but is only the beginning.

Ticket sales for the 2019 LPSCon have sold out with 800 attendees traveling from as far as the UK,
Australia, and Mexico. The event will be held once again at the Henderson Convention Center and has
been expanded to become a two-day event on June 22 nd and 23 rd .

Safro is also adding speaker sessions as another feature to the 2019 convention. Four of the most
popular YouTube collectors are being flown in to talk about their collections, the different aspects about
these toys, and their videos. LPSHannah, a collector from Sweden has a collection of over 2,000 LPS
animals makes her living by creating short video stories using a cast of characters from her collection.
Hanna has been producing videos for over ten years and generated over 8 million YouTube views.
LpsAce is a collector from the Netherlands with over 250,000 YouTube subscribers. MusicGirl Pro is
from Ohio, has a collection of over 500 LPS and 179,000 YouTube subscribers. LPS Tiptoe has generated
over 10.7 million views on her YouTube site since 2011 and has a regular following of nearly 62,500
subscribers.

Riding on her success and the popularity of the Littlest Pet Shops toys, Safro is hoping to expand LPSCon.
For the last couple of years, Safro has also held smaller east coast conventions, paying acquaintances to
manage the events for her. However, worldwide there are between one- and three-million LPS
enthusiasts who post videos on YouTube and photos on Instagram. She hopes to expand LPSCon to
Australia, where there is a huge population of collectors, along with Europe and Canada. Attendees
learn about the convention through her website http://www.officiallpscon.com/.

In addition to school and her LPSCon organization, Safro is an equestrian, entering amateur jumping
competitions. She is also an artist, photographer, and videographer. Looking to her future, Safro is not
exactly sure of what she wants her adult profession to be except that it will involve horses or animals,
and be entrepreneurial.

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