Serena Meng knew her daughter Sky wasn’t your typical tyke.
For starters, the 4-year-old was known to talk about “products,” and many adults found her exceptionally articulate for her age. Entrepreneurs themselves, Meng and her husband, artist Joe Allen, chalked it up to their own shop talk around the house.
But according to Meng, it was their daughter who planted the seed for a new enterprise.
“She wanted to start a business. I asked her, ‘Are you sure?’ And she said, ‘Yes, I want a business and I want a big business,'” said Meng, who was surprised by the declaration.
It turns out Sky had set her sights set on a personal acquisition, namely a Calico Critters Maple Cat Family figure. She deduced the quickest route to owning one was to start her own company.
“I’m going to save my money and then buy (it),” the 4-year-old explained in a phone interview.
She also reasoned the profits from a company would come in handy for sizable future purchase. That goal is a real horse, which she greatly desires for when her family realizes their collective dream of buying a farm.
As a mother who home-schools her daughter, Meng viewed the interest as a teachable moment. Along with learning about creating a business, it offered an opportunity for the young student to learn math, language arts, geography and anatomy.
Meng, who previously owned a day spa, drew from her past business acumen to advise her daughter. She aimed at keeping her anchored in pragmatics, explaining that businesses usually start small and building up from there.
Sky first expressed an interest in making quilts, a skill that neither had at the time. Then she landed on another. She has dabbled in art since she was 8 months old, starting with handprint works and by age 1 was helping her mother make thank-you cards, Christmas cards and Valentine’s Day cards.
“I told her, ‘well you make all these cards for friends and family already. Do you think that would be something you would be interested in?’ ” Meng said. “She loved the idea that somebody would open up their mailbox and have a surprise inside. It would be a card that she had made … and it could be sent to anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world.”
Meng, who said her family is big on hard work, explained to the aspiring company owner that a great deal of it would go into creating one. Undaunted, Sky spent months steadfastly churning out designs, eyes on her goal.
Finally, her company was born.
Chance of Rainbow is a web-based greeting card company set up under her parents’ LLC that sells 40 designs, which are made into prints by Meng. They are available at chanceofrainbow.com.
Cards include those of local interest, like pineapples and Rainbow Row, as well child-friendly and general interest cards. These days, the artist’s preferred subject matter includes unicorns, rainbows, sparkle and monster trucks. She has also created holiday-themed designs. They retail for $3 to $3.50, with customers spanning age ranges.
Cards ship nationally, and can also be delivered locally. Sky regularly visits the post office in north Mount Pleasant to take care of business.
“She knows the people that work there by name and they know her. That’s really made this part of our home school lesson,” said Meng.
Chance of Rainbow recently made its first foray into bricks-and-mortar. The company booked a booth at the Carolina Park Holiday Market, sharing the space with her parents, who sold art, including her father’s mosaics.
Stocked with her own business cards and impressive people skills, the company founder engaged with potential customers throughout the day, extolling the virtues of her products.
“We hardly did any talking,” Meng said. At one point, a customer picked up one of the cards, which features an ocean wave, and the youth chimed in “Oh, that’s my most popular card.”
According to Sky, the event was a hit. “A lot of people were buying,” she said. “It was nice to get all these sales.”
Since then, she also also pitched to a couple of local retail outlets, going to the shops to make her case after Meng set it up. Her mother has explained how selling in this way will affect the bottom line. She remains on the hunt for fitting retail partnerships.
Profits notwithstanding, the joy for this enterprising card artisan mainly comes from the experience of those who receive her cards.
“I’m sure a lot of people would be happy when they get my card in the mail,” she said, explaining that they would know it is a card because they can feel it, and recognize that it is from her company because of the address on the envelope. “So then they’ll get excited.”
Charlestonians can get excited, too, as the future looks bright for a new generation of business leaders — bright and with a Chance of Rainbow, too.