Spotlight on Young Entrepreneur Stephen Ou

I love what Stephen said to me in one of the emails he sent about being a CEO Kid:

“I am calling myself a Chief Everything Officer”!

After reading Stephen’s interview you will absolutely agree with that statement!

Sarah: Please tell me how you got started and where CEO Kids and parents can find out more info about you.

Stephen: People can find out everything I do at http://stephenou.com, or if they want to hear about my opinionated opinions, feel free to follow http://twitter.com/stephenou

Let me tell you little about what I have made:

OneExtraLap – A social quizzing community that allows you to compete with friends on quizzes. http://oneextralap.com

iTunes Instant - A super fast iTunes search engine, considered a better alternative for native iTunes search. Made in 3 hours, literally. http://labs.stephenou.com/itunes

TwtRoulette – A mashup that let you share Twitter home timeline. It’s a great way to discover new content. Made in 7 days with Shervin Pishevar, an silicon valley investor. http://twtroulette.com

OhBoard – A $3.99 whiteboard application on Chrome Web Store. Many folks use it to replace their physical whiteboards. http://ohboard.com

Sarah:  When did you start thinking about starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur and why did you want to start?

Stephen: It was November of 2009, I’ve been following major tech blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable, I was fascinated by how technology changed the way we live and work. I thought why not gave it a try? So during Thanksgiving break of 2009, I started a web app called OneExtraLap as a total experiment.

Sarah:  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?

Stephen: Let’s talk about OhBoard, my digital whiteboard software. I used to own a physical whiteboard, but I ran into many problems. First, I had to erase before adding new stuff. Second, I always lost my marker. Third, if I wanted to share it with friends, I literally had to take a picture and send via email. Fourth, it was freakin’ expensive, an OK whiteboard at Office Depot costs $10-$20.

OhBoard solves all of these problems. You can have unlimited drawings, and they are saved automatically as you draw! It doesn’t need a marker, just your mouse is enough. It has a one-click export and share feature, your drawing will be on your co-worker’s inbox in 5 seconds. It is just $3.99 which is five times cheaper than those physical whiteboards!

I asked many folks I am close with, since most of them had this exact pain point, I figured out many people will be interested in something like this. So, I made OhBoard! :)

Sarah:  What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?

Stephen: I honestly can’t judge which one is the most important. It’s a combination of many things. Determination is needed to keep trying when bad moments come, especially at the beginning. Creativity is needed to come up with things that set myself and my software apart. Responsibility is needed to recognize mistakes, share lessons after messing up, especially when my products are consumer driven. Nothing would work without the combination of them.

Sarah: What were the biggest obstacles, problems you had in getting started in business?

Stephen: Time! I only have 4-5 hours on every weekday to work, and I have many software to take care of. So I have to prioritize as much as I can. I have to do what matters the most to users, such as fixing bugs and marketing to find new customers. It sometimes can turn into a problem. I usually like setting deadlines and making promises, but some ended up really bad, when I didn’t deliver what was promised.

Sarah: Thanks for being honest about some of the challenges Stephen.  Promising too much is often a hard thing for entrepreneurs. How old were you when you started and how old are you now? How does your age affect your business success?

Stephen: I was 14 when I initially started (end of 2009), and I am 16 now. My age actually has an advantage that I didn’t intend to have. People pay more attention to my apps because of the headline effect. I never want “xx-year-old” to be the attention grabber, but that’s how reporters write stories.

Sarah:  So true!  The media loves young entrepreneurs! What about college? Are you planning on going?

Stephen: I think so. I know a lot of people are criticizing the lack of curriculum renovation in college. While I totally agree, I think college can be a great place to meet like-minded folks. They can be
your life-long friends or business partners.

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?

Stephen: I’m extremely conservative when it comes to spending money. I only spend money on things considered “required”, such as hosting and domains. And things that can make more money, such as $100 on AdWords that brings me $250 revenue. Since I do freelancing/consulting on the side, I can bootstrap whatever I’m doing. No need for any venture capital (I think that will just “force” people to spend money, instead of making money).

Sarah: What have been the best surprises that you found in starting your business?

Stephen: I found out recently, you don’t have to be big to be successful. The common notion is you are successful if you have a $xx millions company with #xxx employees. But that’s not true. I will totally consider myself successful if I can make $10k/month from a simple one-man lifestyle business.

Sarah:  That is a great goal and I am sure you will get there really fast! Do you do EVERYTHING by yourself or do you have people on your team that work with you?

Stephen: I am pretty independent, so I do 95% of the stuff myself, I don’t want to manage people all day long. Another reason is I want to learn as much as I can from every aspect of a business- development, design, marketing, etc.

Sarah:  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?

Stephen: Make something wonderful enough that people will talk about. This is really powerful!  When I made iTunes Instant, because people enjoyed it so much, they told their friends and blogged about it. From that kind of word of mouth, it became insanely popular.

Sarah:  How do you balance it all? Do you find that you still have time to be a kid?

Stephen: Nothing needs to be balanced. I’m just doing what I love just like HS basketball players do what they love. I haven’t considered myself as a kid for a long time, I’m in high school and I’m very close to adulthood already, just few years away.

Sarah:  That is so true Stephen and you can tell you are passionate about what you are doing and love it which helps to make life enjoyable even if it does get intense sometimes. What is the best advice or tips you would like to share with young entrepreneurs?

Stephen: Think small, start small. Many others say think big, start small. But I believe thinking big will give you unrealistic goals, and let you do unrealistic things. If you fail (likely to be the case if you think big), you will be discouraged. But if you do it stage by stage, hit easy-to-reach goals one-by-one, your time will be a lot easier. If you think about becoming the next Facebook or being acquired by Google, I recommend you to change into make your first $1000 or get your first 100 customers.

 

Spotlight on CEO Kid Larry Edwards: Co-Founder of Mommy and Me Doggie Wash

I won’t dare let my kids read this article because then they will be begging for a dog like Larry was! (OK – they will likely keep begging for a dog regardless of reading the article!)

Not only did Larry get a dog but he turned his experience of washing his dog into a business!

Sarah:  Please tell me how you got started and where CEO Kids and parents can find out more info about you.

 

Larry: When I was 7 I got my first dog and gave him a bath. I liked giving him a bath so much that I decided to start a Doggie Wash service.  I knew it was a good idea because dogs like baths and my mom said I loved dogs so much I would like doing it.

You can me and my book find on Facebook!

Sarah: What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?

Larry: It helps to have my mom helping me!

Sarah:  What about college? Are you planning on going?

Larry: My mom and dad says school is good so I will go to college and play sports.

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?

Larry: My mom took me to the store to get a dog tub and shampoo for my business and mom says it costs money to put gas in the car so that was an expense too.

Sarah:  What have been the best surprises that you found in starting your business?

Larry: My mom writing a book about me and my Doggie Wash and getting to be on the news.

Sarah:  How do you balance it all? Do you find that you still have time to be a kid?

Larry: My mom helps me a lot.  She lets me play when I want to unless I have homework to do.

Sarah:  What is the best advice or tips you would like to share with young entrepreneurs?

Larry:  Have fun!

Spotlight on CEO Kid Khalil Parker: Author and Young Entrepreneur

Sarah: How did you get started Khalil?

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.

Sarah: 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?

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!

What Do You Do When Your CEO Kid Wants to Quit?

How would you handle this situation? What would you do? Share your thoughts here

Spotlight on CEO Kid – Cole Spradlin of GrassMan Lawn Care

Some kids have the entrepreneur spirit from day one and it other kids have to be inspired to be entrepreneurs. The inspiration for Cole came when he was just 9 year old.

Here’s his story in his own words:

“When I was 9 years old I started working on a farm.  I worked on the farm for two summers. I started out watering plants and picking up cow poo.  It wasn’t so much fun but you have to start somewhere.  After working on the farm for a while I learned how to train horses, ride, saddle them up, and I even went on a cattle drive.  At the end of the time I volunteered on the farm my dad surprised me by paying me $300.00.  He told me that he wanted me to know that when you work, you get paid.  It was on the farm that I learned character, integrity, how to work hard, and my get-it-done attitude.  Now I own a local lawn service business in Steamboat Springs, Colorado called GrassMan Lawn Care.  I also an working on a couple of different inventions.  I am working on creating some unique fly fishing gear.  In fact one of my dad’s friends is going to China next month and he is going to be looking for some different materials to help me make my product.”

Sarah:  What a great story Cole!  I can’t wait to hear about your inventions too!  Why did you start thinking about starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur?

Cole: Most kids my age don’t have a business and they rely on mom and dad for everything.  I wanted to have my own money and I thought owning a business at my age would give me a jump start in life.  I am planning on taking a trip to the Gold Coast in Australia in the next year and I need money to purchase my plane ticket.  One day I have a dream of becoming a Marine Biologist and want to go to Australia to learn more about sea life.  My dad encouraged me and we brainstormed that a lawn business would be a good way to get the money for my ticket and other things.

Sarah:  What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?

Cole: I love to laugh at life and not let the small things get me down.  This has been good for me when trying to get lawn accounts and getting 20 no’s in a row.  I am also good socially and this helps in building relationships with people and getting lawn accounts.

Sarah:  So true Cole!  Laughing is so important and keeping the rejection in perspective is really important!  What were the biggest obstacles, problems you had in getting started in business?

Cole: I went through 3 weed eaters this summer and that was a big struggle because I had use my own money to pay to get them fixed.  My first weed-eater was older and it died on me.  I bought a new weed-eater and I broke the gas can on it.  I had to have a new one as soon as possible so I bought a cheaper one at a garage sale and that is the one I’m using now.  The other problem was going door to door to find lawns and nobody would give me a straight answer, I guess because I was a kid and they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I am working now to ask them to give me a more specific answer.

Sarah:  That must have been hard Cole. Tell me about your age – how does that affect you?

Cole: Although I worked on the farm when I was 9 and 10 I didn’t start my business until I was 11 and there are pros and cons to that.  I don’t have everyday expenses like house payments, electricity bills and water bills so all the money I make goes into my pocket!  Because I am too young to drive, I can’t get as many accounts as I want and I don’t feel like pushing my lawnmower 10 miles so that is a bit of a problem.  My dad has been really great to drive me around to a bunch of my accounts and that helps me a lot.

Sarah:  It sure helps to have supportive parents!  Your dad and mom have been so awesome in supporting you!  What about college?  Are you planning on going?

Cole: Yes, I am planning on going to college.  I want to either go to the University of  Texas and play football or possibly go to the University of Queensland in Australia and get a degree in Marine Biology.  I plan on growing my business by getting more accounts, hiring my friends and selling the business before I go to college.  Then I will take the money from my lawn business and start a new business that I can run while in college.  I may also keep the business and have my dad run it while I am in college.  I have time to think on that.

Sarah:  It’s great to hear that you are thinking about the growth of your business and are making plans for the future!  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?

Cole: My dad helped me out by letting me use the family’s lawn equipment, so I didn’t have much start up cost.  Now I have money to reinvest in better equipment and supplies I will need for next summer.

Sarah:  Good thinking to reinvest your money back into your business.  What have been the biggest and best surprises from starting your business?

Cole: I’m always finding money in my pocket!  There are people in my town that are three times my age and I make as much if not more than them and I didn’t think that was possible.

Sarah:  That’s awesome Cole!  It’s such a great feeling to know you are being paid what you are worth!  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?

Cole: I found my best marketing was done door to door, fliers and when I do a good job people spread the world.

Sarah:  So how do you balance all of your activities and your business Cole and what tips would you give to other CEO Kids and entrepreneurs

Cole:  I limit the days I am mowing so that it doesn’t interfere with the other things I am doing but that does require some sacrifices.  What I would tell other kids is that if you want to start a business you have to have the mindset that you can do it.  You have to be willing to work hard, have character and integrity and a belief that you can make it happen.

Independent Youth

“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” – Mary K. Ash, founder of Mary Kay cosmetics


About Independent Youth Inc.

Independent Youth Inc. is a non-profit organization that was formed to educate youth (ages 12-18) on entrepreneurship. The organization focuses on teaching students the fundamentals of business ownership while bringing awareness to the importance of it. The programs and resources provided by Independent Youth enable students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, preparing them for future success.

The Independent Youth Business Center
http://www.independentyouth.org/members/community/
The Business Center provides an environment that supports and inspires young entrepreneurs to pursue their business dreams and passions. A number of tools and resources are provided to Business Center members. Access to the IY Business Center provides you with:

  1. A website builder
  2. Business forums
  3. Young Entrepreneur Spotlights
  4. Access to top young entrepreneurs
  5. IY in the Workplace

Independent Youth works with companies across the country to assist students in obtaining mentorships, internships, and job shadowing opportunities. When you access the Students in the Workplace program, you are able to connect with experienced entrepreneurs. This hands-on experience is a beneficial part of your professional development.

Business Webinars
http://www.independentyouth.org/business-webinars.php

Independent Youth holds quarterly webinars. These webinars are designed to increase your understanding of entrepreneurship. The Business Webinars are pre-recorded and delivered by successful young entrepreneurs across the country. Each presenter addresses a specific topic within entrepreneurship.

Youth Entrepreneurial Academy
http://www.independentyouth.org/youth-entrepreneurial-academy.php
The Youth Entrepreneurial Academy (YEA) is a national program that focuses on educating students about the
basics of entrepreneurship, providing educational information in an interactive format. Over the course of the
Academy, students gain an appreciation for entrepreneurship as they learn the process of starting & running a
business.

Spotlight on CEO Kid – Michael Costigan

Who is Michael?

Michael Costigan is a voice for all young adults — his message is clear, “in order to understand, you must listen”. Michael speaks to teens and adults about effective communication so that they may make better informed decisions together.

Profile

Michael has grown up and lived all of his life in Orange County, CA. He loves the atmosphere of both the beach and the city.  If he weren’t going to school in Santa Margarita, CA, he would want to live in San Francisco, a naturally frequented getaway for him.

It was early in life when MIchael decided he wanted to radically change the course of being a typical kid. In the summer of 2006, when he was 13, he founded madFusion, LLC. M-A-D standing for Marketing, Advertising, and Design. madFusion works with up and coming individuals and start-ups to provide online and offline graphic design services, as well as business strategy and social media consulting.

In 2007 Michael partnered with Youth Venture, a 501(c)(3) organization, defined as a “Global Community of Young Changemakers”. He was privileged enough to be awarded and recognized for his accomplishments with madFusion and was offered a grant for furthering the growth and development of his company. Michael went on to assist Youth Venture as a web pioneer, most notably contributing to the brainstorming and development process of GenV.net, an online community for teen entrepreneurs worldwide. During this time Michael discovered his talent for public speaking, being given the generous opportunity from Youth Venture to speak at a high school, addressing over 400 students about what
it means to become a changemaker as a teenager.

The learning didn’t stop there, Michael found himself increasingly interested in entrepreneurialism and the world of technology. In 2008 he partnered with Adam Huda (CEO) to form Think Top Down, LLC. This new company is an iPhone software development firm based in San Francisco, CA. Michael owes the gift of opportunity and experience Adam for bringing him on board. Michael is currently the Vice President at Think Top Down. Attending such events as Macworld 2007 for the launch of the iPhone and WWDC 2008 introduced Michael to the world of consumer end and development end software. Think Top Down’s technology has gone on to produce such services as uApp, Inc.

Most recently, in 2009 Michael laid the foundation for his present endeavors. He started Esoteric-Life.com, a website that focused on adolescent psychology and teen related issues. He also used this website as a platform for his publications and case studies on teen life. While Michael remains active in the business world, he has chosen to put a particular emphasis on public speaking and the production and promotion of teen media. Michael has found that he enjoys nothing more than connecting with people and hearing their story. He hopes to be able to speak to both adults and teens on topics such as relationships, social pressures, and defining individuality. Michael continues to help form an outlet for the voices of teens all around.

Michael has been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to travel both nationally and internationally to Model United Nations conferences, including UC Berkeley, The Royal Russell School in London, World UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, and in 2011 the International American School in Beijing, China. Among other things Michael has received recognition from many leadership institutions, including the National Congressional Leadership Conference and People to People. He is also a syndicated writer for Vanessa Van Petten’s parenting advice website, RadicalParenting.com as well as Adam and Matthew Toren’s website, YoungEntrepreneur.com

Spotlight on CEO Kid: Eric Glustrom

This spotlight is on CEO Kid Eric Glustrom.  During his high school years, Eric Glustrom became involved in Amnesty International, allowing him to learn about a population of refugees in Uganda—those coming from warring countries surrounding Uganda: Sudan, Rwanda and Congo. Glustrom wanted to learn more about the refugees of Uganda and give his fellow students in the States the opportunity to see what life was like in a much different part of the world.

Glustrom founded Educate! in 2002 at age 17 after a visit to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Uganda. Impressed by the potential and drive of the African youth to solve the numerous challenges facing their community from poverty, to malaria and corruption, Glustrom started Educate! to equip the next generation of leaders in Uganda.  The full story of the beginning of Educate! is at: http://www.experienceeducate.org/history/.

(Facebook: Educate! , twitter: @EducateOrg, LinkedIn: Educate!Org, Website: www.ExperienceEducate.org)

I talked with Eric and he answered quite a few questions we had about being a CEO Kid.

Q:  When did you start thinking about starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur and why did you want to start?

A:  I wasn’t planning to be a social entrepreneur but decided to after my visit to Uganda.

What things influenced you to start your own business? (A-ha Moment)

A: The most memorable, and life changing, part of my visit occurred the first day, in Kyangwali Refugee Camp. I became inspired by a young refugee, Benson Olivier, who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda at the age of 14, the only one of his family to make it. Benson learned how to fend off deadly diseases, grow his own food, and survive in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Even more impressive than Benson’s ability to survive, is his warm heart, kind personality, and great sense of humor in spite of his past hardships. Benson became a role model. Before I left Uganda, I wanted more than anything to help Benson and the people of Kyangwali. I asked Benson what I could do, and Benson responded by asking only for an education so he could work to solve the problems in his community and homeland.  From these insightful words, Educate! was born.

Q: What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?

A: I have so many meetings with those on our Advisory Board, with previous teachers, with individuals in other organizations, and with other business people.  These meetings really help me understand and define the future direction of the organization.

Q: What were the biggest obstacles, problems you had in getting started in business?

A: Communication is difficult in any organization.  It is probably even more difficult in a startup organization, and probably the most difficult in a startup working between continents (especially when one continent has poor email and phone access, inconsistent power, and there is a 9 hour time difference).  So communication has been one BIG challenge.  Maintaining strong communication so that everyone in the organization can understand the lessons we are learning, and therefore make informed decisions is key. As technology gets better, communication will of course only get easier, but nothing can replace the quality of in-person time together as a team.

Another challenge is building consensus within the organization such that everyone not only agrees, but also believes in the overall direction of the organization.  Especially in the early stages, there are so many different directions that the organization can take.  Boris Bulayev, Educate! President, is very business minded and Glustrom is more idealistic, so coming to the middle ground is a productive, but sometimes rocky process.  As Bulayev and Glustrom work more together, they have learned to make that process as smooth as possible.

Q:  What is the problem, even or need that your business helps to solve?

A: In Africa, nearly 50% of the population is under the age of 18. We are all aware of the problems facing the youth of Africa: poverty, violence, disease, slavery and environmental degradation.  But there won’t be sustainable solutions without a new generation of African leaders to create and drive those solutions.  The youth in Africa are unprepared to tackle the serious challenges facing their communities and what they need is the right knowledge, guidance, and mentorship—truly a quality education—to unleash their potential.  Educate! helps young Africans transform their enthusiasm into action. We want to prove that the youth of today can solve the greatest challenges Africa is facing.  Uganda is a logical place to start because schools, organizations, and the government have jumped behind this vision. Educate! has created a new model of education that channels the potential of youth to find solutions to poverty, disease, violence, and environmental degradation. The curriculum is focused on the skills and experience students need to find innovative, new solutions. The teachers are mentors who build powerful relationships that give youth confidence to lead change. And the classroom is the community itself where the Educate! students start initiatives that work for the rights of all.  There are currently 830 students enrolled in the Educate! Experience curriculum.

Q:  Where did you come up with your idea and what investigation did you do to help you know that this was a great opportunity for a business?

A: When asking one of the young men at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement how I could help him, he told me he needed a good education and from there he could positively affect his community.  The Uganda school system just isn’t good enough (focusing only on studying for exams, not real life skills), so I knew we needed to create a Socially Responsible Leadership Curriculum that would enable and empower our students to create social initiatives to create powerful social change in their communities.

Q: How did you research your target market?

A: High School aged students.  Traveled to different schools in Uganda to partner with.  At first, it was hard for them to understand what we were doing and why, but now we have 24 partner schools across Uganda!

Q: How about your age?  How does that affect you?

A:  Started the organization at 17 was a huge struggle.  No one believed that I could create change and they didn’t think I would follow through with my goals. My parents were a great encouragment system, but they were always pushing me to be independent (I had to do all the organizing and planning of my trips to Uganda).  I think this has helped me in the long run, but it was very hard to get the organization started with very little money (had to do fundraising events- such as money raised from people sponsoring me to climb mountians, and also asking for money from relatives.)

Q: What about college?  Are you planning on going?

A:  I studied BioChem at Amherst College in Massachusetts and graduated in 2007.  I think that without my year at Amherst, I would have been able to take Educate! to where it is now.  We have such a great support system and a hugely active Educate! club at Amherst.  Also at Amherst, I met Boris Bulayev who was a very active member in the E! club and is now President at Educate!.

Q:   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?

A: Educate! has built over time a devoted group of 800 supporters, and several foundations who believe in the mission behind the organization. At first, our start up expenses were very small because we only asked Educate! supporters to sponsor students to go to school, but now we have an office in Uganda and pay our Mentors (teachers) to teach the Socially Responsible Leadership Curriculum.

Q:  Were there any good surprises that you found in starting your business?

A: There is so much reward that comes out of Educate!.  The greatest satisfaction from Educate! goes back to the relationships that are formed.  We often say Educate! catalyzes the sequence of relationships, empowerment, leadership, change.  From our supportive relationships, our students gain confidence, enabling them to become leaders, and change their communities.  Building these relationships, and seeing the impact they have on individual lives and transformations they create in communities, in addition to all I (Eric Glustrom) learn from these relationships, gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Another example, This story truly stands out to me as Educate!’s impact: Joseph Munyambanza, one of the Educate! students from the Democratic Republic of Congo living in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, Uganda, was admitted to the first class of students at African Leadership Academy. ALA (www.africanleadershipacademy.org) is a model advanced level secondary school in South Africa that accepted only 100 students among applicants from all over the world. The admission process was tough – two rounds of applications as well as a day long practical interview – and the acceptance rate was more competitive than Harvard. Way to go Joseph! At ALA’s grand opening ceremony, Joseph even had the chance to read a closing poem after an address by Desmond Tutu. After the poem, Joseph had a chance to greet and hug Archbishop Tutu, truly a model leader for Africa. It is remarkable that Joseph was admitted to ALA, and it is just as incredible that he received a full ride scholarship from the school. But there is no doubt that Joseph is deserving of this opportunity. His work in and out of school from starting an anti-violence club benefitting women victim to physical and sexual violence in the Congo, to receiving top grades, to helping COBURWAS (an organization started by Educate! students, including Joseph) find a way to send more youth in Kyangwali Refugee Camp to school is truly inspiring. In addition to all that Joseph has accomplished he has an incredible heart and the purest of intentions which shine through from the moment you meet him. Joseph’s full profile is on our site at: http://www.experienceeducate.org/joseph-munyambanza/.

Q:  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?

A: We have a truly amazing staff and volunteer base. There are always more people that are inspired to help.

Q:   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?

A: A: We try to be very active with social media, and find our efforts to be successful.  We send out daily updates on Twitter and Facebook and send a weekly e-newsletter to our supporters via our blog (www.experienceeducate.org/blog) about the impact and stories of our students. I think one of the most important ways to get the word out is for the local media to run stories about your business/organization.  We have grown our supporter base hugely from stories in local newspapers and getting the community involved in our events.

Q:  Did you try any marketing approaches that did not work for you and why do you think they didn’t work?

A: We’ve tried a lot of ways to connect Educate! to the larger community and some things work and some things don’t.  We continue to be persist and it’s starting to pay off. We have active twitter and facebook accounts that we continue to build and a growing community supporters base by sharing Educate! stories and updates in the local media.  We have two annual events that are very successful, one is our Annual Ball- a gala event for the future of Uganda. We raised over $25,000 at our Ball this past February.  And our Climb for Uganda, a community hike in Boulder, Colorado and in Kampala, Uganda that is a celebration of our students and the successful program, while highlighting the unity between the U.S. and Uganda and overcoming challenges together.

Q:   How do you balance it all?

A: All the amazing volunteers in the organization have really taken Educate! to where it is now.  It’s wonderful to see how inspired they are to work toward a better world in Uganda.

Q:  What advice or tips can you give to other CEO Kids and entrepreneurs?

A: To stay focused and not let anyone discourage you. If you follow your passion, you will succeed. Because I was so passionate about creating social change in Uganda, people in my community were inspired and found ways to help.

Q:   Tell us one more time where can CEO Kids and parents find you and do you have any special offers that you want to tell them about?

A www.ExperienceEducate.org

Spotlight on CEO Kid – Dallas Goodwin

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to interview young entrepreneur Dallas Godwin!  Dallas is a young entrepreneur and just has some really brilliant things for her future projects.  You can find out more about what she does on her website www.dallasdesigns.artfire.com She was only 8 years old when she began her business and she got started for the same reason many other CEO Kids do – she wanted money! Her parents told her to she should start a business – so SHE DID!

The lesson here is that rather than telling kids they can’t have something because WE (as parents) can’t afford it – put the responsibility in their own hands.  Tell them to start a business! They just might do it and then amazing things can happen for your kids!  They just might learn responsibility, money management, public speaking, time management, emotional management and SO MUCH MORE!

Here’s the rest of the interview I did with Dallas!

Sarah -  What were some of the biggest obstacles you had to overcome so far Dallas?

Dallas-    It’s hard because my website is just beginning so I really have to work on my confidence and things like that when things don’t go how I really want them to.

Sarah – Good for you that you keep going!  Having your own business will definitely build your confidence.  I know it has for my own kids.  So what is your site all about?  What do you do?

Dallas-    I make earrings and I’m starting to sew and so there’s going to be earring holders on there and lots of other things too!

Sarah – So just everything that you can possibly imagine that might have to do with jewelry and crafts it sounds like.

Dallas-  Yeah!

Sarah – All right.  From your experience how have you found that your age has affected you? Has it helped you or has it made things harder for you? Do you like being so young or do you wish you were a bit older?

Dallas-   Well, it’s easier because people really want to see what I make because my age. I am so young.  It encourages them to buy from me too!

Sarah – That’s awesome!  I am sure you are an inspiration to other young kids too!  They see what you do and it probably makes them want to do what you do. So what have been some of the best surprises you have enjoyed from your business?  Have you been able to buy anything with the money that you’ve earned or have you just been reinvesting it and getting more supplies for your business?

Dallas-   Some of it I’ve reinvested into my business and some of it I have spent at the mall!

Sarah – Good for you! So you do everything yourself or do you have some people that help you?

Dallas-   My mom helps me a lot.

Sarah – Okay, good.  So tell me where you sell most of your items. Do you just sell things on your website or do you go to farmers markets or to fairs?

Dallas-    Sometimes I go around my neighborhood at yard sales and stuff.  There’s also a shop up the road that I put my stuff in as well.  Of course I sell things on my website as well!

Sarah – That’s really good.  So what are some of the things that you do on a daily basis?  Do you make jewelry every day, do you make phone calls to people?

Dallas-  My mom homeschools me so we go everywhere.  Sometimes we see people that I know and I always carry around my business cards so I hand them out to everyone.  I also try to have my items with me. I update my And so I – and on a daily basis I update.  And I have a Facebook fan page ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dallas-Designs ) as well and I update on that.  <== Be sure to go “LIKE” her page!

Sarah – Wow, good job!  Social media is the best way I know to get FREE advertising!  All you have to do is spend your time on it!  Of course you do need to be use “safe internet practices”.  I am sure your mom is really, really cautious about that for you.   I love how you say that you carry your business cards with you because I think that’s a brilliant move for young entrepreneurs, well any entrepreneurs in general is if you have your business card with you.  You always need to be prepared and as my friend Barbara (http://twitter.com/Brightfarm) says, “When your mouth is open your business is open.  When your mouth is closed, your business is closed!”

Barbara is a great friend of mine.  She’s an “elevator pitch coach” and you can find out more about what she does here: http://brightfarm.com/WordPress/.  She coaches people on what to say when people ask you about your business.  It’s important to know what to say so that you are confident.  People will be surprised and impressed by your confidence!

So how do you balance it all?  How do you balance making the jewelry, finding new customers, delivering things, and doing your schoolwork as well as everything else that you’re doing?

Dallas-  My mom helps me a lot with all the timing stuff .   My dad is a builder and he’s driving all over sometimes.  Sometimes I say, “Are you going by let’s say Washington?  Can you drop this package off?” He is really helpful in making deliveries to people.  When things need to be delivered far away then I mail them.

Sarah – Okay.  That’s great.  So just in closing, what would be some things that you would recommend to other kids if they wanted to be in business?  Let’s say you were talking to my son who is 7 and you said, “I know you want to be in business.  Here’s some things that I would recommend to you.”  What would you tell him?

Dallas-    Well, one of the things, you got to stay focused on what you’re doing.  Don’t say, oh, I want to do this, and this and this and this!   Get good at one of the things you’re doing first and then kind of branch out – add more things later.  Get really good at one thing before you keep moving to other things. It is so important that you follow your dreams.  You also really need to do some research to make sure that what you are doing is something people actually want.

Sarah – I  love what you say about following your dreams.  I think that’s so important.  You can’t just a business for the money.  You have to do it for something that you’re really passionate about.  Dallas, thank you so much for taking the time to be an inspiration to young entrepreneurs around the world.  I just so appreciate you being courageous enough to be on the phone.  I know sometimes it’s scary.  Sometimes people say that public speaking is worse than death and so you’re starting to overcome that fear if you haven’t already of talking with me and doing interviews.  I know for sure in my own family, my own kids have had a little bit of a fear of the phone and I think it’s really important as an entrepreneur to overcome that because you’ll be talking with clients and you might be talking with people that will help you grow your business in some way or another. Congratulations for what you’re already doing and I just wish you the biggest, biggest year for 2010 so you have lots and lots of sales for your jewelry and you expand your line and have lots more things that you’re offering.

Spotlight on CEO Kid – Clinton Skakun

I have found that when kids start working for others they either really enjoy it or it encourages them to think of ways that they can be the BOSS! I remember think the thoughts – “I could make more money per hour if I was working for myself.  I wouldn’t have to have this CRAZY schedule if I were working for myself.”  The same thing happened to Clinton.  His first job at 16 years old motivated him in a big way to be an entrepreneur.

***Note to parents – if your kids are over 14 encourage them to get a job.  They will either LOVE it or they will HATE it but at least they will begin to have an understanding about what they would prefer.

Here’s the interview I did with him:

Sarah: Clinton – tell me a little about you and how you got started in business as well as where CEO Kids and parents can find out more information about you.

Clinton:   The best places to learn more about me is on my website/blog www.ClintonSkakun.com.  From there you will find links to Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve lived in High River Alberta for nearly 10 years.  I started seriously thinking about owning a business after a year of working a summer job when I was 16-17 years old. Before then I had started out as a developer doing odd jobs for a friend of mine, who was introduced though my dad, who also had business as well as a good client base. I gained a lot of experience working for them in the past few years and attribute it to my skill now days.

Sarah:  Besides the summer job and working for your dad’s friend what other things influenced you to start your own business?

Clinton:  There were a few people who influenced me in starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur. First of all, my dad taught me the technical aspects of small corporations and helped me form a corporation while I was still too young to
be a director etc. Second of all, I’d have to say that my brother-in-law instilled in me the creative entrepreneurial side, the belief that it was ok to dream big. I attended events with my sister and brother-in-law that caused me to make life changing decisions. I didn’t join the business he’s in but listening to entrepreneurs, who had more passion than I saw in every day
people, caused me to decide that I wanted to be in business for myself.

There’s a saying that “people make life changing decisions at large (business) events.” I think a lot of us can look back and say that an event we attended years ago had a drastic effect on how we viewed life later on.

There’s a quote I heard, I’m not sure who said it, but it rings true, let me paraphrase;

“Once a person’s mind is stretched, it cannot return to it’s prior capacity.”

I can never again look at a job/employment position as a means to creating real income!

Other than the people who have influenced me, I’d say the books I’ve read, the audio books I’ve listened to and the notes I’ve taken have sent me in the right direction.

Sarah:  You are so right Clinton – when you stretch someones mind it can never return again to the same capacity.  They might go back to what they were doing before but in their mind they will remember that life can be different because of the stretching they have experienced.   So what do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?

Clinton:  I’m still developing these skills and I would have to say people skills are number one and always will be. I could say become better at your art, your craft.  The funny thing is, many of us are great at our craft. For instance, I consider myself a pretty competent coder but for a few months I wasn’t getting too much business…and it wasn’t because of my coding skills. After I learned how to sell my services and made a strong effort … things started working for me again.

If there’s one thing that’s more important than people skills, it’s the ability to learn from failure and to control your own thoughts and focus. I blew a lot of opportunities in the past because I wanted to avoid mistakes instead of learn and experience. And most of my failures came from spreading my focus too wide, wanting everything, focusing on the good instead of the great.

The GREAT will always be worth the sacrifices.

Sarah:  Wow Clinton!  That was so well said.  What do you see as some of the biggest or problems you have had in getting started in business?

Clinton:  As with many things in life, the biggest obstacle has always been myself. T. Harv Eker talks about this in his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. He says that if you are a level 5 person and you have a level 8 challenge, the challenge will be too great. If you are a level 10 person with a level 8 challenge, the challenge suddenly becomes easy. The only way to go from a level 6 to a level 7 is to constantly take on level 7 challenges.

To be specific, my biggest challenge is reaching a level of professionalism so that I can talk to anyone I choose. I often feel myself held back be personal fears and limiting beliefs. And I work daily to overcome this. It’s funny, but often your biggest challenge is what holds back most results. When you get leverage on it, things explode.

Money can be an issue for a new entrepreneur starting out. Most of my business ventures have been started with very little money, so other than personal needs, the need for money hasn’t been much of a problem.

Sarah:  I love that you obviously read a lot and T. Harv Eker is a great author to read. Where did you come up with your idea for business and how did you know it was a great opportunity?

Clinton:  Ideas, with an “s”, is more like it:) hehe. But yes, good question, how do I know when I find a good business opportunity? As an entrepreneur I’m very flexible. I love exploring different business systems, different markets, etc. I know a good opportunity when I see other people succeeding at it and when I see there’s a future market for it and when other large companies get in on it and stake their credibility. I’m not much of a pioneer and you can’t really call me an inventor either. I like taking what works, using other people’s experience and building on that.

There are a few criteria that I have when approaching a new business opportunity.

  1. It needs to be in the best interest of the consumer.
  2. It needs to have very large income potential…an extraordinary life requires larger amount of wealth.
  3. It needs to be in a good market, one that won’t saturate in a few months or years.
  4. I need to feel passionate about it as well. There needs to be some emotional connection to it as well as the
    profitability.

Sarah:  Those four criteria are an excellent standard to measure any business venture.  Tell me about your age Clinton.  How does it affect you that you are so young?

Clinton:  I’m still at that age where it only makes sense for people to naturally doubt my credibility because of my age. It can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good part about it is that it drives me to live up to higher expectations than most people my age do. The bad thing is that I could potentially miss some opportunities to meet some great clients because of assumptions. Either way it doesn’t bother me too much. I think people have a good reason to doubt us younger business owners. Even though we have a lot of potential, we don’t have as much as experience as we need just yet to run at high performance. Also teens haven’t developed a whole lot of emotional control, and this might take until their early twenties. So I think young entrepreneurs do have a lot to offer to the marketplace and if they develop themselves, by their twenties they
will be champions. In my opinion, actions speak louder than a person’s age.

Sarah:  What about college?  Are you planning on going?

Clinton:  I thought about college. People I know who went say that it’s a good experience. I don’t disagree. I decided to take on real world experience before diving into post secondary. By my late twenties I plan to be making a very high income and, if I’m still interested in college, I’ll go. But maybe by then there will be better experiences.

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?

Clinton:  Only the cost of forming a corporation and all the good stuff that comes with that. I started contracting for some great people since day one and was in the plus right a way. I do spend money on little expenses like domain names, hosting, gas, ads, a laptop etc. As for much of my software, it’s free open source Linux software that the Open Source community is kind enough to build and let us use. That alone has saved me thousands of dollars.

Sarah: What gave been the best “surprise” that you have found because of starting your own business?

Clinton:  Good surprises…hmmm…I guess finding out I didn’t have to be employed under my company but rather that I could pay myself dividends, as an investor. Dividends come with a tax credit. Taxes in Canada are brutal.

Sarah:  That is brilliant Clinton!  So 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?

Clinton:  There’s a saying, “no man can change the world alone.” Surrounding every great person is a bunch of other great people who helped him or her get there. There is no such thing as “self-made.” I belief highly in leveraging OPT and OPM, other people’s time and other people’s money. I also believe in leveraging talents and delegating your weaknesses, and compensating other people’s
weaknesses to mesh as a team. Teamwork is the only way to go. The age of the corporate structure is slowly dying.

Sarah:  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?

Clinton:  I post ads on sites like Kijiji, give out cards, go to networking events and contact people whenever possible. Word of mouth and referrals is also very effective.  You also have to let your family and friends know what you are doing and who you are looking to work for.  Make as many connections as possible either at networking events, sports events, people who share your hobbies etc. I find that having a flattering online presence is extremely important. My blog, the interviews people have done with me and my public online activities are a compliment. I want people to see a professional when they Google my name. As for connections, it doesn’t matter who you know, all that matters is who people you know know. Approach everyone, not planning to sell to them but rather to get referrals who may need your services.


Sarah:  Have you ever tried any marketing approaches that did not work for you?

Clinton:  Ahh…none came to mind at first. The only thing that comes close to marketing, that didn’t work, was news paper advertising in the local paper.

Sarah:  So how do you balance it all?

Clinton:  I believe that balancing your life is more an elimination act. It’s easier and more effective to balance a few things, than to balance a whole lot. That might sound 3rd grade but what I really mean is taming your focus is like herding cats. If we were computers we’d be able to balance everything perfectly. But as human beings clarity is power, and the less you have on your plate, the clearer you are on what you have to do to get to where you want to go. You have more mental energy going into the great things in life.

Apart of balancing is putting weight on the importance of time. If something isn’t yielding a large return, it deserves a smaller amount of time and energy. How do I find out when I’m not working hard enough on the important?  Simple – when the bank account is slim or when crises start popping up.

Sarah:  What advice or tips can you give to other CEO Kids and entrepreneurs?

Clinton:  Decide what you want in life(goals and dreams), don’t give up. Obstacles are only questions, “do you really want this?” Condition your mind by hanging around the right kind of people, reading the right books (Think and Grow Rich, Win Friends and Influence People, etc.) and challenging yourself to do things you didn’t think you could do. Raise your standards, don’t set high goals and fall back on low standards.

Plan ahead…you probably sometimes wish you would have better planned your present, the best way to avoid this is to plan the future. Set goals 10-20-30 years into the future. You really have nothing to
loose but everything to gain.

Other than that, stay focused on your goals, constantly improve yourself in some way and rise to the level the great ones call “Playing to Win”. You won’t believe what starts to happen when you start
putting yourself on the line.

Oh! And learn to sell yourself…people always buy YOU before they even look at what you do.