A 12-year-old boy who has been selling drinks, snacks and sunscreen to passers by in the Sydney suburb of Coogee has been gaining support from local residents after he was reported to council for his activities.
Jesse Lane, the young entrepreneur behind "Jesse's Shop", has earned the support of nearly 4,000 signatories in a petition that residents of the beachside suburb hope will keep the pop-up store open.
"So here is my hero for today, Jesse. He has built a for-purpose business, selling drinks (and quite impressive range) to thirsty walkers in Coogee," a member of the Coogee Local Loop Facebook group wrote on a post in July.
In his post, the author explained that the "polite and thoughtful" boy does everything by himself, which includes lugging his supplies and setting up cashless payments, and even donates some of his profits to the Cancer Council.
"Such an impressive kid, well done to his parents," the man raved before adding, "BTW he has started a petition because some elderly women have reported him to council."
Community up in arms over complaints
The post has received massive support from locals, with many members of the Facebook group outraged by complaints about the boy's business.
"We have been supporting Jesse since day one, especially for the dog treats. What a fantastic young man with such drive and ambition. He seems to really enjoy his little gig up there. For those who now have made it extremely difficult for him by involving the council and incurring costs, get a life and give this great kid a break!" one man commented.
"Some women reported him? Gross. I tell my kids they should take some inspiration from this kid. The commitment and drive is special in a kid his age," wrote a supporter.
"Only in Australia would you get people giving out about a child not having a legit business," argued one woman.
Another member of the group said that as a parent of "two self-absorbed teenagers" she loves Jesse's "commitment and industriousness" but suspects he is running afoul of the law by operating a store at a beach-side park.
Coogee locals sprung into action by starting a petition to keep Jesse's store open shortly after hearing about the complaint in July.
Jesse's mother, Catherine Tiney, told Yahoo News Australia that they expect more residents to sign the growing petition as they hear about her son's plight.
Ms Tiney explained that Jesse first started to show interest in business shortly after they moved to Coogee five years ago. "He was about 8 years old at the time, and it was a really small lemonade stand," she said.
Jesse took a shine to running a lemonade stand and started expanding his little business to what it is today.
Ms Tiney noted that Jesse had operated under the radar as residents were always quite supportive of him, and only came under fire after a couple of elderly locals noticed her son and decided to file a complaint with the council.
She explained that she had wanted to sort this out, and had tried to persuade her son to cut his hours and time spent working on his business. She added that while they were not promoting him, they were also not stopping him, as Jesse tends to be a determined young man.
"He went through many umbrellas because of the wind," Ms Tiney shared with a chuckle, adding that there was no shortage of support for her son from the community who helps Jesse with things such as making signs.
Speaking with Yahoo News, a representative of Randwick City Council clarified that Jesse's case is more complex than it looks as the issue is not with the store per se, but that the business is being conducted on public land.
"While we admire the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the young man, there are restrictions on commercial operations in public parks," the spokesperson said. "Dunningham Reserve is Crown Land managed by council as community land for the purpose of recreation."
"We have received a number of complaints from people concerned about the precedent of commercialisation of the park as well as concern about the safety and welfare of a young boy trading and handling money in a public place," he continued.
"Council has taken a very sensitive approach noting the boy's age, and over the past months we have been speaking with the boy and his parents, reminding them about the restrictions in place. Despite this, the practice has continued and we have now received a formal application from the boy seeking approval to operate the stand. Council staff are in the process of assessing the application," the spokesperson explained further.
Jesse's mother however hopes that the council would consider allowing Jesse to continue to run the business, but also consider putting an age limit in place to ease concerns about the commercialisation of Dunningham Reserve.
"Are there really going to be other kids?" Ms Tiney pointed out, stating that some kids would probably try but not really follow through with something like this once they realise how much hard work it takes, adding that even her son may eventually lose interest in time.
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