An 11-year-old girl whose mom has spent almost a month out of work as a furloughed federal employee created her own business to help her family and others.
Bella Berrellez, a fifth-grader in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has sold more than 500 of her handmade sugar body scrubs since the federal government's partial shutdown began last month.
She started making the $7 creations when her mom, Jessica Berrellez, a longtime employee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was furloughed.
- 3January 15, 2019
"I just came up with the idea because when I found out my mom was furloughed I was like, 'What can I do to help?'," Bella told " Good Morning America," noting the sugar scrub business is her third start-up, coming after her earrings and slime businesses.
A stalemate between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has created the longest federal government shutdown in history, and forced over 800,000 government employees to go without paychecks.
Bella started Bella Sweet Scrubs using a recipe she and her mom used to make body scrubs during a day they spent together in December. She began by selling the scrubs to neighbors and friends and now has her own store on Etsy, where she ships them to customers across the country.
Thanks to all my sweet customers! We’ve hit 100 sales! I’m up past my bedtime preparing my first orders for shipment. #shutdownscrubs #GratefulHeart #girlCEO #goals2019 pic.twitter.com/E4EZ84jFY3— Bella Berrellez (@BellaBerrellez) January 5, 2019
First shipments! WOW! Thanks to my little sister for helping! #shutdownscrubs #gratefulheart #bestsister pic.twitter.com/FpToiBTEDj— Bella Berrellez (@BellaBerrellez) January 5, 2019
Bella, who is partially blind, is using her profits to help grow her company and help others. She recently donated $100 to Nourish Now, a nonprofit organization that collects food from donors like restaurants and cafeterias and distributes it to families in need.
Thanks @nourishnow for all the good work you do in our community. I loved touring your warehouse & am grateful for the opportunity to make a donation through the proceeds of Bella’s Sweet Scrubs. #sweetscrubs #girlCEO #kidphilanthropist #foodbank #foodrecycling #shutdownstories pic.twitter.com/0ICL0MCNWO— Bella Berrellez (@BellaBerrellez) January 11, 2019
Bella's donation will allow the charity to hand out an additional 200 meals, according to Brett Myers, who founded the Maryland-based charity in 2011.
"We’ve seen an increase in families who are on furlough calling [for help] every day," he said. "Fortunately we have people like Bella who really help out and restaurants are calling to donate more and the community at large is asking how they can help."
Myers added, "The shutdown is something that is so eye-opening and is affecting so many people. You see it every day."
Bella learned about the shutdown because she watches the news every morning while having breakfast, according to her mom. The family has since had discussions about how they are affected and how they can help others.
"I’m really proud of myself and I’m really happy that I have supportive parents and the chance to do this," Bella said. "I’m also thinking of expanding it and making different things like lip gloss and soaps."
Though the Berrellez family is able to get by during the shutdown because they are a dual-income family, Bella's business has provided a "positive, fun distraction" during the long days of uncertainty.
Bella's mom said her daughter's entrepreneurial pursuit has made her realize how aware children are of what's going on around them and how much they want to help.
"All I think is they should reopen the government because I want my mom to go back to work," Bella said.