Adora: I started writing when I was four years old, and when I was six, my mom bought me a laptop computer so that I could start typing up my stories (and improve my spelling). I became so excited about writing that I would spend hours at a time typing away. By the time I was seven, I had written over 400 short stories, and I wanted to get published. My parents were incredibly supportive of me, and as a result, I was able to publish my first book, Flying Fingers, before my eighth birthday. My writing launched a speaking and teaching career, speaking to students (and later, teachers, parents, and other adults), which in turn gave me a platform from which to launch activist projects. Today, I’ve published two books (Flying Fingers, a book of short stories, and Dancing Fingers, a book of poetry that I co-authored with my older sister Adrianna). You can find out more about me and both of my books at my website, www.adorasvitak.com; follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/adorasv) and watch my teaching videos on YouTube (www.youtube.com/adorasvitak).
Sarah: When did you start thinking about starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur and why did you want to start?
Adora: I never really decided to be an entrepreneur or have a business; the “business” came about as a result of the publication of my book, Flying Fingers. I loved seeing the books get out into readers’ hands. I never had a lemonade stand, so Flying Fingers was my childhood version of lemonade.
Sarah: I love that – Flying Fingers was your version of lemonade! Where did you come up with your idea and what investigation did you do to help you know that this would be a great business?
Adora: Because reading and writing had, from a young age, been one of my passions, I knew that I wanted to do something that involved the written word. For me, that meant writing down my thoughts and ideas in stories and poems and publishing books. As I saw it, it was an excellent way to have an impact.
Sarah: What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?
Adora: My ability to speak to and relate to many different groups, whether students, teachers, kids, or adults, has helped me a great deal in expanding my audience. I believe that being able to connect with many different groups, not just the kind of people you know, is an important skill for any kind of leader to have.
Sarah: Truly, your ability to speak has produced a huge advantage for you and so many opportunities! What were the biggest obstacles, problems you had in getting started in business?
Adora: I found that education, and reading and writing in particular, have become incredibly undervalued; many kids (and some adults) openly say that they hate to read. As a writer and a teacher who teaches on language arts subjects, probably one of the biggest challenges I had was making reading and writing popular with my audiences. The experiences I had with speaking to students from schools all around the country certainly helped me expand my ability to relate to many different kinds of people.
Sarah: That is a challenge Adora! How old are you now and how your age affect your business success?
Adora: I turned thirteen in October of 2010. I try to make age irrelevant to business success, because everyone ages every year, and good CEOs know that a measure of quality is longevity. In that vein, I don’t like being referred to as a prodigy. That said, I do try to use my age to relate to peer groups, to speak for causes I believe in, and provide points of view that are rarely heard (for instance, speaking about youth empowerment to adults at conferences). My age may sometimes be a “wow factor,” but I don’t aggressively market it as such. Being thirteen has helped me connect with the school-age audience, but at the same time it’s exposed me to restrictions from adults towards youth. Ultimately, I think that getting started early has allowed me to have practice that many other kids haven’t had.
Sarah: Good points and the practicing aspect is something that you have to do no matter when you start. What about college? Are you planning on going?
Adora: I do plan on going to college. I hope to study something relating to the fields of education, journalism, writing, and/or history. I haven’t started a serious college search yet but I may have to begin soon.
Sarah: What kind of expenses or start-up costs did you have when you started your business and where did you find the money or capital to start?
Adora: For my website, www.adorasvitak.com, we hired a web designer and spent a lot of time and about a thousand dollars to make sure it was perfect (or as close as we could get it)! The website provides a central place for customers to purchase copies of my books.
Sarah: It does look great and I love that it immediately starts with a voice introduction of you! What have been the best surprises that you found in starting your business?
Adora: The number of people out there who are truly interested and supportive of my pursuits has been something truly (happily) surprising to me. We see many indifferent people, and it’s been lovely to be able to meet so many people who take an interest in what I do.
Sarah: No matter what you are doing, it is great to have support. Do you do EVERYTHING by yourself or do you have people on your team that work with you? If so – how did you find people to help you along the way?
Adora: My family is my team, essentially. They provide crucial support in everything I want to do. People make many partnerships over the course of many years, but the most lasting relationship is probably that with your family. My family is here for me no matter what I do.
Sarah: It is so fabulous to hear that your family is so strong. What ideas and approaches do you use to market your business and what do you find works best for you in getting the word out about who you are and what you are doing?
Adora: When it comes to getting the word out about my books, causes, or events, I often use social media and television or radio appearances. Often connections with people or conferences have provided excellent stepping stones (for instance, my speech at the TED conference was viewed by people around the world).
Sarah: We have watched your TED speech so many times as a family! They even played it at TEDx Youth Sacramento where I spoke in November. How do you balance it all? Do you find that you still have time to be a kid?
Adora: I think it’s important to realize that many of my roles are intertwined and overlap. For instance, my speaking, teaching, and activism are often synonymous. Thus my life is not always as busy as people might imagine. That said, it can be a little busy sometimes (particularly while traveling). The important thing for me is that it shouldn’t be about quantity—how much money I make or how many places I’ve been—it should be about quality in experience. So instead of thinking about how much time I’ve spent on this or that, I ask myself whether something was worthwhile or enjoyable.
As far as managing schooling goes, I go part-time to an online public school, Washington Virtual Academy (www.wava.org), and I take two classes (Cooking and Drama) at my local school, Redmond Junior High. This blended learning option allows me to both interact with others my age on a daily basis and take my studies with me wherever I go.
And as far as “being a kid,” I enjoy playing the occasional (non-violent) video game with my family, talking with my friends, going hiking, bowling, roller-skating, and ice-skating. Many people have the idea that kids who do great things are somehow being deprived of the chance to do fun things. In my case, it’s not at all true. In fact, my experiences have allowed me to do far more “fun things” than many others my age.
Sarah: Thank you for pointing out that “being a kid” doesn’t have to be separate from “being in business”. Many people have questioned what we are doing with Raising CEO Kids and wondered if we were “allowing them to be kids”. You stated that so well! What is the best advice or tips you would like to share with young entrepreneurs?
Adora: Don’t try to conform to expected roles that others have set—whether it’s in entrepreneurship, like the type of business you should have (some of the best inventors were those with totally wacky ideas), or in life, where many people tell us that we can’t do this or can’t do that because we’re too young or we’re too old. When it comes down to it, it’s rare that someone gets in the news or a whole lot of respect because they copied every single other person—the people we admire are those who broke boundaries and innovated. And innovation is what fuels entrepreneurship.
You can read more about Adora in the book she was featured in called: What it takes to Make More Money Than Your Parents! We love this book at our house! (This is an affiliate link. By purchasing through it, you are supporting Raising CEO Kids! 😉 )
Photo credit to Joyce Svitak: http://www.flickr.com/photos/svitak/5297905727/