In a twist on the newly popular retail incubator programs, Jones Lang LaSalle Retail is running an incubator geared toward pint-sized entrepreneurs at 18 of its centers this summer.

Kids Inc. offers an opportunity for children aged six to 15 to develop their own retail business ideas and try them out for a day at one of Jones Lang LaSalle-managed properties.

The program was born out of an existing tradition at Westgate Mall in Amarillo, Texas, according to Julie Crane Rickey, senior vice president and director of portfolio marketing services with Jones Lang LaSalle. Among the firm’s goals in the endeavor is encouraging retail entrepreneurship among future professionals.

“It’s been very rewarding to see some very creative ideas coming out of this, not just lemonade stands and cupcakes,” Rickey says. “It’s very conceivable that some of these children could get the retail bug and [become] the next Mickey Drexler or Martha Stewart.”

Another benefit of the program is the way it promotes individual centers’ Facebook pages. Jones Lang LaSalle invites the kids to submit their ideas through the Facebook page of their community mall, where other Facebook fans can vote for their favorite concepts. In the process, the submissions often get forwarded to grandparents and other family members, as well as family friends. At the Windward Mall in Kaneohe, Hawaii, for example, the number of Facebook fans rose by close to 1,400 people during the few weeks the contest for ideas was being held, Rickey says.

Setting up shop

By now, most of the participating malls have held their one-day sales events. At each center, anywhere from 10 to 15 winners were chosen out of hundreds of submissions. Among the more creative ideas Rickey cites a concept called Duct Tape Treasures, one of the winners at Central Mall in Fort Smith, Ark., which sold objects made of duct tape, including purses, photo frames and handbook covers. Another innovative retail venture involved rock painting.

The contestants with the winning concepts then underwent basic retail training, including learning how to put together a business proposal for the mall marketing manager and figuring out how much inventory to order for the “grand opening.” Jones Lang LaSalle provided them with sales tables in the common area of each mall to help maximize shopper traffic. The newly-minted retail professionals were able to keep all of their profits.

“It’s really a mini-process on how to set up shop for that day,” Rickey says.

Most of the participating properties spent anywhere from under $1,000 to $2,000 on these events, and Jones Lang LaSalle will likely run the program again in the coming years, according to Rickey.

“Based on the response that we’ve had, we want to support and encourage this.”