You may have heard of Moziah Bridges, one of the youngest contestants on Shark Tank. He started his bow tie business when he was 9 and, as of last summer, the business was bringing in $200,000 a year in sales with five employees on the payroll, including his mother and grandmother.
It may not seem like a huge number, but come on, he's a freaking kid who has enough drive to create a good product that appeals to a specific demographic. And he's not alone. There are a number of high-profile child entrepreneurs who face the same problems you and I do and who come up with some smart answers.
Location, location, location
Although technically 13-year-old Danielle Lei of San Francisco isn't an entrepreneur per se, she is a Girl Scout and it's that time of year to push cookies. When it came to staking out a spot to peddle Thin Mints, she was smart to listen to her mother. The two set up outside a medicinal pot dispensary. The result: 117 boxes in two hours. After 45 minutes they needed to replenish supplies. Find the place where your natural customers can find you and you, too, can do quite well.
Offer something others don't
Many businesses are predicated on trying to sell the same thing as everyone else but at lower margins. The problem is that if you don't have the deep pockets as your competitor, you can be forced to sell so low as to make your business model untenable because you might need a higher gross margin than a bigger operator. However, 13-year-old Hannah Walton doesn't have to worry about that. Last fall she opened a store in downtown Montgomery, Alabama to sell her handmade clothes, accessories, and artwork. Her mother and grandmother are helping, but she already started two non-profits, one to raise money for cancer research and the other to offer free art classes to kids.
Scratch an unsatisfied need
Ever have to hire a babysitter? Finding a good one is tough. Noa Mintz realized that when she was 12 and started an agency to place vetted care providers to upscale families that would pay significantly to get reliable help. She learned enough of business from her father, who runs a private equity firm, that the agency really took off. Last year, when she was 15, she literally hired a CEO. The reason was she could no longer put 40 hours a week in. High school beckoned.
Use innovation to create a better mouse trap
OK, so technically it isn't a mousetrap. But Alec Ryncavage, whose company, A.R. enterprises, is located in Kingston, Pennsylvania, added antivirus protection to USB thumb drives. If you've got a problem on your hard drive, plug this in and get a program to self-install and start cleaning things up. It's very clever and an important example of incremental innovation, in which you take something and find ways to improve it.
Create your own intellectual property
Sixteen-year-old Bree Britt co-owns a bakery, Bree's Sweet Treats in Accokeek, Maryland, with her mother. The high school student started cooking when she was 5 and, at 12, told her mother Charmaine Britt that she wanted to open a bakery. The tested the concept out online and eventually money from sales enabled them to open the store. Bree develops her own recipes, often using fresh fruit for flavor.
Do what you love -- and experiment
Jack McKenna loves candy and he created a business based on that love. He, with help from his successful entrepreneur mom, Marcy, developed a toffee recipe without preservatives so his brother, who is on a restrictive diet, could eat it as well. It took 50 batches, but he finally got it right. And, reportedly, his business is backed by a multibillionaire, although the family won't release the name.
Never let people convince you to give up
Blake Pyron makes snow cones. He's a 19-year-old with a food truck. Blake also has Down syndrome. When he was born, people at the hospital thought maybe he'd learn to walk and possible talk. Remember, your future is yours, not someone else's, to decide.