When you’re a kid who wants to start a business, no matter how smart you are, you’re going to need a parent’s help for certain things. I started Pencil Bugs when I was 9 years old. When it came time to get a business license, state tax ID, and file for a DBA (my business name), I couldn’t have done it alone. Kids aren’t allowed to sign anything legal.
Once I decided on what type of product I wanted to create, I drew out different sketches and made some prototypes. One thing I learned is that your invention doesn’t have to be really involved or difficult. Sometimes the simpler, the better and those can sell just as well. My Pencil Bugs sell for only $1.50 each and I found that people are very willing to spend that amount without a lot of thought, whereas they might have to think longer about buying something more expensive.
Pencil Bugs are cute, little crafty bugs that come on top of a #2 pencil. There are eight different colors, each with its own Certificate of Authenticity which gives their birth date, given name, tricks they’ve learned, and care and training instructions. They are all handmade. Luckily I don’t have to pay employees to help me; my mom and dad work for free! Even though I do much of the work myself, sometimes I get so many orders at once that we set up an assembly line and the three of us work together.
Some people think it’s easy to have a business. What they don’t realize is how much time is involved, especially if you’re hand-making everything. I also make matching laminated bookmarks for each of the eight Pencil Bugs, custom t-shirts, and I’m working on other related products.
My mom designed my website (www.pencilbugs.com) which is where I sell most of my products. I also hold sidewalk sales outside local grocery stores and occasionally will list them on E-Bay. Having sidewalk sales has made me much more confident and able to talk with lots of different people. I’ve learned that being able to communicate well makes everything easier, not just in my business but in school and other places too. When a customer walks by my table at a store, I only have a few seconds to get their attention. Learning to get right to the point and hopefully make a sale is really important.
I’ve always liked money and I’m good at math but my business has taught me even more about finances, marketing, advertising, etc. I’ve been featured in newspapers, in the July 2007 issue of Inland Empire Family Magazine, was a guest on a radio talk show, “Mind Your BIZness” (www.wnbnetworkwest.com/MybShow.html), and was lucky enough to be the “kid mogul” on the NBC game show “1 vs. 100” in February, 2007. In June 2007, I received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Young Entrepreneurs of America.
Probably the hardest part of having a business is sticking to it. I’ll admit there have been many times that I’ve wanted to quit. It’s not always fun. Thank goodness my mom and dad always give me just enough nudging to keep me going because I’ve been able to have a lot of fun experiences from my business and have made quite a bit of money too.
People sometimes ask me if I have time for regular kid stuff and the answer is “yes”. I take Tae Kwon Do classes, I like playing board games and cards with my family and friends, I love playing computer games when homework is done, and I also have a dog that I take care of. I’m a regular 11-year-old who just happens to also have a business.
I know I’m luckier than most kids though, so as soon as I started making money, I decided to donate a portion of my sales to HUGS Foster Family Agency in Temecula, CA where we live. My donations go directly toward things the kids need, not to pay for people’s salaries.
I’ve given presentations and talks for community groups and schools which has made me more comfortable talking in front of people. If anyone wants to contact me to speak to their group or ask more questions about my business, go to www.pencilbugs.com and click on the Contact page. Feel free to place an order while you’re there.