School aged entrepreneurs like Taylor Dow are the kind of kids who raise eyebrows. At 17 years old, he has dropped out of secondary school to concentrate on his weight loss business, Body Tea Australia, which makes him more than $10,000 per week.
Yes. That’s right. This kid’s business is going to turn over more than $500,000 this year. The idea formed when he was playing basketball for Victoria at 15, learning about nutrition. He quickly spotted a market niche for a tea to help with weight loss.
Dow is part of a new generation of young entrepreneurs. These digital natives – the first generation who grew up with the internet as an indispensable feature of everyday life – are able to take their business out of the front yard, and market to a wider audience using the power of social media to build their brands and improve their products.
Here we take a look at the kids who have made it big already; the ones who spend their Sundays trying to find the next major tech idea; and the emerging entrepreneurs honing their business skills early.
Some, like Dow, have the drive, the idea and the facilities do it on their own. Others get their start thanks to a range of programs in Australian schools designed to foster and encourage young business people.
The tea tycoon
Dow isn’t nervous about his decision to forgo Year 12, and he doesn’t think he’ll go back to his high school, Saint Ignatius College at Geelong, as it was taking too much time away from his business.
“I feel like I’m achieving a lot of goals and dreams right now,” Dow said.
Body Tea Australia started eight months ago, using social media – specifically Instagram – to promote the products. The business gained a following of more than 67,000 people, but demand for the product really exploded when the young entrepreneur received national media attention.
To make the tea, designed to help with weight loss without being a diuretic, Dow spent hours on Skype speaking with producers to create the perfect formula.
Dow now employs four people and retains an accounting company to manage his finances. Most of his business savvy is his own – his first enterprise was importing sports shoes from the United States and selling them to his basketball-playing friends – although he does take advice from his parents.
His next project is a book with recipes and work-out plans, due to be published in the next few weeks. Plus he’s still playing basketball (now with the Geelong Supercats) and has more products in the works.
A fairy profit
Fifteen year-old Molly Whiticker-Ferrie has turned a quirky idea into an empire of fairy entertainers.
Her story started with feather hair extensions. At the tender age of 14, she bought them in bulk, learned how to apply them and started to market them to her friends.
“The first day at school I did five hair feathers and … I think I charged $5 per feather. Then [the] next day I did 10. Then I put it on Facebook that I was doing them. I did them at a friend’s birthday party and by the end of the week I had made a little over $200.”
The experience taught her that she had a knack for business. Then, when a family friend wanted a fairy-themed birthday party, she donned a pair of gauzy wings and, along with two friends, entertained the guests.
The concept quickly turned into a business, Fairy Friends Forever. Whiticker-Ferrie started her own website and marketed her business aggressively on Facbeook and Gumtree. These days, she employs seven fairies.
“It’s very hard at such a young age owning a business,” she said.
“It’s a lot to learn at once – dealing with clients and working with friends – but also [staying] on top of school work, my casual employment in retail and finding that balance of having a social life, travelling [and] spending quality time with the people I love most.”
Fairies are not in her future forever, though – Whiticker-Ferrie wants to study marketing and public relations at university.
The emerging entrepreneur
Nathan Feiglin is a tech whiz. At just 15 years old, he’s trying to break into the lucrative market of apps and online sales.
He has been “dabbling” in online businesses since the age of 12. Last year, he created an Election Slogan Generator app, which allowed users to create their own inane political slogan.
Feiglin is now researching the development of a social networking platform that incorporates a buy and sell capability. He describes the concept, called Salir, as being “like Instagram with a buy button”.
— Nathan Feiglin (@nfeiglin) February 14, 2014
The network will allow people to follow sellers, as well as suggest similar items based on their previous purchases.
Feiglin is has just started Year 11 and, like most kids his age, is contemplating his future – although it may not include university.
“I’m at a point where I need to decide what I want to do; take the typical path, go to university, study and get a job in a big company, work, retire and then go on holidays. Or lead a life where I have the potential to do things other people haven’t and be my own boss as well,” he said.
You’d think that running a business selling cards, art and jewellery would keep most 13 year-olds on their toes.
But that’s just the start for Poppy Starr Olsen. She is also the under-14 Girls World Champion in Bowl Skateboarding and runs her business to fund her trips to compete in the United States. Her story is inspirational stuff – so much so, that she now speaks at entrepreneur events.
Olsen now runs a website and multiple social media platforms to sell her products and promote her own brand as a skater.
Programs for “kidpreneurs”
The idea of teaching child entrepreneurs is itself becoming big business. Olsen was one of the graduates of the Club Kidpreneur course, designed to foster independence and innovation in children.
The Club Kidpreneur Foundation, a not-for-protfit social enterprise, encourages, educates and mentors kids between the ages of eight and 12 years. The program has attracted 3,000 children through its in-school programs and camps since 2009. Founder Creel Price started in business selling strawberries when he was 11 years old.
Elsewhere, the Academy for Young Entrepreneurs runs a similar program for kids between 10 and 12 years of age. The academy encourages youngsters create a business to generate profits that can be donated to charity.
How to get started
Dow believes the most important advice for young entrepreneurs is to remain persistent.
“It might be tough for the first six to 12 months – but keep going if you see the potential, because other people will too,” he said.
Feiglin, who has given more advice in detail on his blog TechNewsU, agrees that it’s vital not to be afraid to fail and to “just do it”.
“While they may be mocked at school for challenging the status quo, they should be resolute and persevere,” he said.
Whiticker-Ferrie has achieved success through innovation and hard work. Her advice to child entrepreneurs is “if you’ve got a good idea, run with it and make it what you can”.
“It’s not easy and won’t happen overnight, but with passion, commitment and discipline you can make it happen,” she said.