What were you doing when you were the ripe age of 12? Odds are, it didn't involve running a sustainable line of skateboards with Sir Richard Branson as an investor after a successful Shark Tank debut. Oh, and how about being a TEDx speaker? Well, for Carson Kropfl, Founder of Locker Board skateboards, that's exactly his story.
Locker Board skateboards are made from recycled skate decks and are designed to fit inside of backpacks and lockers. Rad stuff, right? But the most impressive part is what Kropfl has been able to accomplish is that he's doing it as a 12-year-old entrepreneur. When asked about what being a young business owner has taught him, Carson imparted words of wisdom that apply to all aspiring entrepreneurs, young or old.
1. Seize the moment.
The opportunity for Carson to get involved with Shark Tank first presented itself when he was just seven years old, and he bumped into one of the show's executive producers in an elevator. "I'm where I'm at today because I gave an elevator pitch, and back then I didn't even know what an elevator pitch was," Carson says, "When you're blessed with opportunity, seize the moment - you may never get that chance again."
It gives you a whole new appreciation for 'elevator pitch', doesn't it? Always be ready to seize the moment.
2. Never give up.
Cliche, right? Sometimes the simplest lessons are the most important. According to Carson, his entrepreneurial exploits garnered a lot of negative attention - from fellow kids, adults, and competitors. "I had to face some hard stuff, but none of these things stopped me."
Resilience is the lifeblood of any entrepreneur--and Carson's determination should be infectious. Overcoming adversity is a part of the journey and how you deal with it will define you. Be self-aware of how you are navigating the choppy waters when challenges present themselves, and always press forward.
3. Believe in yourself.
When Sir Richard Branson made Carson an offer on Shark Tank, the 12-year-old boldly turned it around on him, asking what Branson would do to help Locker Board. That question not only showed a tremendous amount of self-confidence but it also evoked an instant connection between Branson and Kropfl.
Where Carson may be young to drive a successful start-up on paper, he is clearly wise enough to know that "People don't just invest in your company, they invest in you."
4. Stick by your mission statement.
After striking gold on Shark Tank, Locker Board had the opportunity to scale up in size. But with that came the decision of whether to opt for cheaper and easier production or to stand firmly by the company's vision for sustainable products.
"Sticking by my mission statement means I'm making something that I'm proud of," says Carson.
Maintaining core values will also create opportunities to attract & retain the right talent while keeping you passionately focused on growing your business. Never lose sight of your foundational cause.
5. Surround yourself with amazing mentors.
Humility can get you farther than it's often given credit for. In Carson's own words, "I'm new at this and still learning. It's important to ask for help, and listen to the advice".
Carson shared a list of some of his amazing mentors:
- Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group
- Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, Lead of Sustainable Innovation at Nike
- Max Swedlow, Executive Producer of Shark Tank
- Robert Jessup, President of Jessup Manufacturing Company
- Karen Sack, Managing Director of Ocean Unite
- Wing Lam, Co-Founder of Wahoo's Fish Taco
- Reggie Church, Vice President of PS Stix
- Virgin Team: Allison Daniels, Michelle, Michelle Mendiola and Harold Brunink
Carson's fifth point is one of the strongest--by having a strong internal network of experienced mentors, you become empowered with the ongoing knowledge that will allow you to potentially avoid a critical mistake, find ways to be more efficient with cost, or innovate a product in ways you haven't yet thought of (to name a few). Those champions can be a guiding beacon for your trajectory and is one of the smartest things you can do as an entrepreneur.
Regardless if you're a serial entrepreneur, or aspire to build your first company, we can all take a page out of Carson's lessons so far in his journey--all at the age of 12.
No pressure on the next 12 years, Carson.