Khalil: Last summer, I attended summer camp at The Fishing School in Washington, DC. This was a really fun camp because they had classes like math, reading, social studies, and art as well as a dance class and an entrepreneur class. One day in the entrepreneur class, we were asked to share our ideas about the type of business we would like to start. I told them that since I have attended a French Immersion School since I was in kindergarten and that I enjoy teaching other children how to speak and read French, that I would start a French tutoring program. That’s when I got the idea for “French with Friends”.
Sarah: When did you start thinking about starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur and why did you want to start?
Khalil: When I was seven, my mom began talking to me about making money by doing things that I like to do. I enjoy drawing, so I would tell my mom ideas about selling my artwork. The only thing was that I liked my artwork so much that I didn’t want to sell them. So, she began talking to me about writing a book. She hired me and my God brother in 2007 to help her with her second book “I Am Somebody!” We translated it into French for her. When I saw how easy it was to make money by doing what I liked, she purchased a “write and publish your own book” kit for me and a book that showed children how to start their own business. This summer, my brother Kalonji and I will release our first book, “In the Midst of Greatness: Celebrating the Men Who Impact My Life.” About one year later, Kalonji and I started a business we set up at our church called The Rite Bite. We make smoothies. It’s through our youth department. Usually on fifth Sunday’s the youth department opens “The Youth Market” in the fellowship hall and we sell our product.
Sarah: So awesome Khalil! 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?
Khalil: I remember when my mother was looking for a French tutor for me about three years ago. The people she contacted were either priced very high or lived too far away from us. So she called a local high school and got permission to hire an AP native French student to help me. He lived in my community. He really enjoyed what he was doing and he did not charge us as much as the others were going to charge us. I remembered how easy it was for him to get the job as my tutor. I felt I could easily start a business doing the same thing.
Sarah: What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?
Khalil: Well, it helps to know how to speak French. Since I will work with young people age four to eight, I have to really like helping children, and I am patient. As the oldest child at home, I have lots of patience with my younger brother and sister most of the time. I will also have to know how to have fun and think of really cool French games to play. This will keep their attention during their 30 minute lesson.
Sarah: What were the biggest obstacles, problems you had in getting started in business?
Khalil: I have not experienced any obstacles or problems at this point and I hope that it stays this way. I do have to really think about the time of day the lessons will take place because I still want to do the things I like to do and also go to camp again. The other thought I still have is where the tutoring will take place. I know I will not have trouble getting students because parents at my school are always looking for French lessons for their children during the summer. That way when school starts again, they will not have forgotten how to speak French.
Sarah: How old were you when you started and how old are you now?
Khalil I started thinking about starting my own business when I was seven years old. I actually started my first business with my brother when I was nine years old. Now, I’m 12 years and three months old.
Sarah: How does your age affect your business success?
Khalil: Well, it really doesn’t. There are some of my classmates who do not think about starting a business at this age, so when I talk to them about what I’ve done and what I am doing they don’t really seem interested. The adults in my life are very supportive and even encourage me to start young. My parents believe in teaching me while I’m young so I can be ahead when I get older. I already know how to cook on the stove, iron my own clothes, shop for groceries, and travel abroad without them. I don’t feel age make a difference at all because I really believe in myself and know that I speak French pretty good. Since I have really supportive parents who love me and care for me and pray that I do well, I don’t worry about what other people think all the time.
Sarah: What about college? Are you planning on going?
Khalil: Oh yes! I want to be a Law Enforcement Engineer. My parents are both educators and are very serious about me getting a great education. They don’t play when it comes to being my best. I’ve already begun attending college tours with my Dad. There are always so many people there trying to get future students and giving information about what their college offers. I have been encouraged to attend the Naval Academy, Morehouse College, Harvard, and MIT, but have not decided on a college yet. Right now, I’m thinking about what high school I will attend. I have to do more research with my parents.
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?
Khalil: With the Rite Bite, our start up costs was small. Kalonji and I had to purchase a blender and all of the ingredients for the smoothies. We also purchased small bags of trail mix we sold. My parents gave us the start up money. We paid the start up money back to them and saved the rest from the profit we made. The start up costs with French with Friends has not been that great, either. I have all the materials from classes I took when I was younger. We are working on our fliers right now that we will print from home and will use our Facebook business page for now to market our services. Also, I’m going to create a CD and workbook with the French lessons I will teach. That will probably be the biggest expense in addition to renting space if we decide to do that.
Sarah: Sounds like you have really thought things through! What have been the best surprises that you found in starting your business?
Khalil: Since really sharing with people that I am starting my own business, the best surprise has been seeing how supportive they are. Sometimes children are not taken seriously and are pushed to the side. But, with my parent’s big support, they are making sure that I am respected as a young business owner and also making sure that I give back to the community. They really believe in “paying it forward”, as my mom says all the time.
Sarah: 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?
Khalil: My team is made up of myself, my younger brother Kalonji who speaks French also and will help me with the tutoring, my parents, and my extended family. They really keep me grounded and make sure that I still have fun as a child. As French with Friends grows, I will think about bringing on more French speaking students from my school to help tutor.
Khalil: Whenever we are out and my mom sees someone speaking French, she has me introduce myself in French. The people are always very impressed! Also, when we shop at different stores and the people working there speak French, she has me place her orders or ask for help in French. The people remember who I am the next time we come and they tell other people in the store. I know Facebook will really help and the fliers will, too. Also, I have a very large extended family, so they will tell people, too. With the help of my parents, they will send out emails and even share it on Facebook and Twitter. I’m working on a website that, for now, I will probably use through Weebly.com. My parents want to see how well I will maintain the site before they invest in a site I own.
Sarah: How do you balance it all? Do you find that you still have time to be a kid?
Khalil: I have a very full schedule with school, church, basketball, music lessons, and chores. My parents make sure that we have family time everyday and that I also play the games I like to play. My mom is always saying that she will not have an overscheduled child so she really makes sure that we are always balanced. Now that I’m getting older, I know that I have to be focused and organized. I’m getting pretty good at it, but still have more to learn.
Sarah: What is the best advice or tips you would like to share with young entrepreneurs?
Khalil: Always believe in yourself because you can do anything you set your mind to do, know who you are, stay away from mean people, hang around cool people, keep trying, and never give up!