Who said that having a successful retail business is reserved for adults? Not these kid entrepreneurs! The young retailers featured here give new meaning to the expression “born salesperson.” Get inspired by the successful kidpreneurs who are taking over the retail world one e-comm sale at a time.
While much has been made lately of the rising spending power of millennials, an even younger, tech-savvier generation has already begun influencing commerce — and not just as consumers. With platforms like Shopify specifically targeting kids and entrepreneurship camps becoming as popular as summer camp, kids are becoming a driving force among entrepreneurs.
We’re not talking startup lemonade stands, here — there are kidpreneurs out there proving that e-commerce is serious business!
Read on as we shine the spotlight on some game-changing Shopify kidpreneurs, as well as the California-based company known as eCommerce Kids, helping kid e-tailers manage their businesses by teaching all aspects of e-commerce.
Roll Call: Meet Some Awesome Kidpreneurs
Generation Z, also known as “Generation Edge,” is certainly one to watch. There are successful kidpreneurs as young as 12 who have turned their hobbies into lucrative e-commerce businesses.
Harley Finkelstein, the COO of Shopify, is certainly impressed by these young business minds:
“Being an entrepreneur teaches you important life lessons and skills, like creativity, perseverance and responsibility. The kids who have started their businesses on Shopify are incredibly impressive, and I look forward to seeing how successful they’ll be in the future.”
There are definitely real-life lessons that are taught beyond the schoolyard! #truth
The eCommerce Kids
Although some young entrepreneurs are learning key business skills as they go along, it certainly helps when there are resources available. One resource taking the industry by storm is eCommerce Kids, an educational program for parents and children established in 2015 that strives to develop budding digital kidpreneurs.
Monica Busby, co-founder of eCommerce Kids, is based in Los Angeles, California, but the program has a total of five offices: four in California and one in Georgia. Monica — who calls herself “Astronaut & Momma Head Honcho” — is proud mom to Jarel Busby, who is building his own e-commerce empire in the process.
Busby explains to the ASD Insider:
“ECommerce Kids (eK) was inspired by my son, Jarel, who started an Amazon business as part of a home school business project. He started with a $120 investment. Three months later he turned that into $3,300 in sales in 30 days! He asked me if we should teach other kids because it would be great for them to create their own college scholarship, or save for a car. I thought: Wow, what a great idea! We can use an e-commerce business as a platform for teens and preteens to learn business and get a headstart in life!”
They worked on the mission statement together:
To CHAMPION financial freedom through Character Development, Family Values, Social Entreleadership, and RADICAL generosity.
(Editor’s Note: how great is the word “Entreleadership”?)
With a truly Generation Z demographic, the age range of children in eCommerce Kids is 11 to 19.
According to Busby, another eCommerce Kid, Zander, was inspired by his love of video games. Once his business started generating high revenue, however, more people took notice of him. Now he is doing YouTube videos and working with companies to private label his brand.
Part of the eCommerce Kids program in recent cycles has been to visit ASD Market Week, where the chaperoned kids found new trends and high-margin merchandise. We sat down to chat with Monica and Jarel Busby, who were with a group of eCommerce Kids, at ASD Market Week in August — they were excited to hit the floor and chat with vendors!
So what can budding entrepreneurs learn from joining eCommerce Kids?
“I run workshops at the Headquarters in Los Angeles, but all the other offices are run by families that have gone through the program and have been doing extremely well in their eCommerce business,” Busby explains. “The eK program itself is a mixture of micro-networks, not just masterminds… each kidpreneur must participate in monthly business meetings, education, and accountability. We also surround them with mentors who are experts in their niches and business models, and introduce them to CPAs, business attorneys, business & tax consultants, and investment firms. We also combine that with character development and family involvement, where parents are also teaching them and getting involved.”
Insider’s Note: The workshops include topics like “Introduction to eCommerce & Arbitrage” and “FBA Shipping Party.” The workshops are a great way to learn the basics of starting and running a successful eCommerce business with Amazon. After all, it’s never too early to learn these skills. (And parents can learn a thing or two in the process!) Three-Day Workshops are ongoing in all offices. Check the website www.eCommerceKids.net for further details.
The impact eCommerce Kids has had on the participating families’ lives has been heartening to Busby:
“We also love to see the excitement in each kidpreneur’s face as they continually succeed in their business along with their families,” she says. “We are not only changing a kid’s life, but the entire family. What a blessing it is to be a part of a mission like this! I am so grateful daily to see people change through this program. To see the families spend more time together, for parents to develop a stronger relationship with their eCommerce Kid, and for them to build a stronger financial future! Our goal is to have an office in every state in the USA and then expand worldwide.”
Speaking of kids working on exciting things, these three kidpreneurs are making it on their own as e-commerce entrepreneurs, with advice that all retailers can benefit from:
Sisters Sydney and Toni: Teenage Founders of Poketti LLC
From classroom project to real-life venture.
Inspired by Sydney’s 7th grade entrepreneurial class in Palo Alto, CA, sisters Sydney and Toni raised funds on Kickstarter in 2013 to launch their plush animals business — and have been working hard to build their brand of “Poketti Plushies with a Pocket” ever since. The entrepreneurial class taught them key lessons like how to write a business plan, and make, market and sell a product; they loved it so much that they convinced their parents to turn the idea into a real business!
The sisters still balance their school work and ballet practice with their Shopify business — no wonder they were named “Wonder Girls” by Women in Toys at the NY Toy Fair in 2016 and have been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and Girls’ Life Magazine.
(P.S. Since Generation Z knows the importance of mobile in retail, the Poketti girls even launched a free gaming app called Poketti Confetti.)
The Lesson for Retailers: As the sisters were quoted in a Shopify feature about Kidpreneurs, “The key to making the most of the many opportunities Poketti gives us is to be prepared, optimistic, and confident in ourselves and our business.” Words to live by for any e-commerce pro.
Mo, 14: Founder of Mo’s Bows
Innate passion and skills lay the foundation for a brand.
Meet Mo, 14, the founder of Mo’s Bows, a Memphis-based, family-run business of handmade bowties.
Moziah “Mo” Bridges has always had a strong fashion sense. According to Mo’s Bows, he used to trade bowties for rocks on the school playground! So at age 9, the sartorially savvy pre-teen launched Mo’s Bows with the help of his mother (the “CEO of Mo”) and retired seamstress grandmother, who taught Mo how to sew.
He began selling his handmade, colorful bowties on his Shopify website and in local Memphis stores.
But Mo was clearly destined for national exposure: his line of dapper bowties was getting noticed by TV networks (he appeared on the TODAY show and Good Morning America while on the morning and daytime TV circuit), was featured in Oprah Magazine (the launching pad of many startups), and appeared on Shark Tank. Today, “Shark” Daymond John of FUBU serves as Moziah’s mentor.
He was even invited to the White House’s inaugural Demo Day in 2015, where entrepreneurs and innovators showcase their individual success stories and ideas to the President, and gifted President Obama with the “Obama Blue” Mo’s Bow.
Today, Mo handpicks every fabric and approves every visual element of his brand — and he has sold over $300,000 worth of bowties and men’s accessories. Further proof that dedication and an eye for detail can start at any age.
This quotation by Mo in Shopify’s feature says it all: “Figure out what you like doing then find out how you can make money doing it, then just let your passion drive your business.”
LeiLei, 20: Founder of Designed by Lei
Proof that a hobby can become a business.
LeiLei was always passionate about designing jewelry — she started doing it at age 13. Three short years later, in 2012, she decided to turn this passion into a business, and launched Designed by Lei as an Etsy shop.
Today, LeiLei is a third-year student at the University of Virginia. In between classes and balancing college life, LeiLei makes jewelry while managing her shop. (You know, just your regular college student!)
With features in The Huffington Post, Seventeen magazine, The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur, and honors like The National Federation of Independent Businesses’ “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” Award in 2014, LeiLei is clearly taking all her success in stride and mastering time-management skills.
LeiLei explains how she manages it all, in the aforementioned Shopify article: “When I got to college, I treated it as if it were any other part time job or work study. I [still] set aside a few hours each week and fulfill orders. This got a lot harder around finals and holiday shopping season. I would try to multitask by studying and making jewelry at the same time. I work on the more time-consuming aspects (new products, photography, website design, etc.) during breaks.”
The Lesson for Retailers: You can balance your online store with other areas of your life by making it part of your routine and setting aside dedicated time for the growth of your business.
Takeaways: 4 Things All Online Sellers Can Learn from Kidpreneurs
Persistence pays off. Many participants in the program saw success after their first few months. They wouldn’t have enjoyed the returns that they did if they had given up too soon.
Make it a “family” affair. The most successful eCommerce Kids have been part of eCommerce Families. Other online sellers can take advantage of this effect by pulling friends and family members into the business. Entrepreneurship can be isolating; those who share in the ups have an easier time weathering the downs.
Never stop learning. Part of eCommerce Kids’ success comes from the knowledge provided by experts like attorneys, tax specialists, and marketers. No matter what point you are in the online selling journey, it’s crucial to continue learning from experts. (Check out eCommerce seminars at the next ASD Market Week.)
It’s never too early (or too late) to start. If there’s one lesson any budding entrepreneur can take from the above kidpreneurs, it’s that there’s no perfect age to get your business started. With the right information, tools, and attitude, you can succeed online.