I met some inspiring teens at the Schoolyard Ventures expo for teen entrepreneurs.
These teen entrepreneurs have lessons for all of us:
Cody Wax suffered from stomach problems for years until doctors figured out that he had gluten intolerance.
Although Cody was ecstatic that changing his diet eliminated his stomach problems, he was a little disappointed in the lack of tasty gluten free desserts. Instead of simply complaining, Cody decided to make his own desserts.
Cody and his classmate / business partner Dawson McCartney experimented by cooking desserts in their house – including one baking marathon that lasted until 4 AM. The results of their hard work are delicious gluten free desserts and a growing business selling those desserts.
Their company, WTGF!, What the Gluten-Free! sells goods in local theaters, a coffee shop, online and at their school, YSC Academy.
The name was because your sneakers would be so clean you could “lick the sole.” I’m not sure any customers tried licking their shoes, but David’s business certainly grew…
A 15-year-old high school student at the time, David got retainer agreements with local university sport teams including teams from University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Drexel University. David regularly cleaned the teams’ shoes and David also built a clientele of sneaker enthusiasts. David developed his business to a point where he was able to sell it for $25K plus a royalty on future sales (perhaps he learned from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank?).
To keep sneakers clean, David used a high-powered stain repelant. When David wasn’t able to license the cleaner and noticed that the cleaner was made of toxic chemicals, he developed Detrapel. Detrapel is an eco friendly cleaner that uses nanotechnoloty to protect clothing from stains. David said that Detrapel is the most effective eco friendly stain repelant on the market. David currently sells in multiple stores and online.
Stephen asked, “If cars can have backup notification systems, why can’t wheelchairs?”
Stephen and his business partners (Miranda Keeler, Aaron Seidman, Deepak Iyer and Kate Evanko) decided to do more than just ask the question. The teen entrepreneurs researched the problem and developed a product that they are piloting in a Virginia hospital. (By the way, they had to iterate many times to get their prototype to work – good thing they weren’t afraid to fail.)
The product vibrates a wheelchair’s armrests if the chair gets too close to an object. A simple fix that has received praise from wheelchair users and will help many people.
The team envisions their company, Sensei, giving one unit away for every unit they sell.
Tacora looks for every opportunity to sell. Recently, she received a text from someone who had the wrong number. After politely letting the person know it was a wrong number, Tacora introduced the person to her business and got a new follower for her business on social media.
As she said, “Henna makes me happy, and I want to share that with others.”
Andrew and Sophia wanted to help other students with learning disabilities, so the teen entrepreneurs founded Opportunity Rises. Their business raises awareness for students with learning disabilities and provides scholarships, so more students can benefit from specialized learning.
Andrew and Sophia started by selling clothing at their school. When that succeeded they branched out to other schools. The students at other schools started Opportunity Rise chapters and also sold the clothing. The money raised funds the business and provides scholarships. For the future they have planned an online network for kids with learning disabilities.
Sometimes I think I learn more from the teen entrepreneurs than I teach them.
I met these students at the Schoolyard Ventures expo for teen entrepreneurs.
Schoolyard Ventures provides summer and school year entrepreneurship programs for middle and high school youth. They’re currently enrolling students for their 2065 program. I’m invested in Schoolyard Ventures, and I teach of one of the cohorts.