The innocence, mystery, and wonder of children, combined with the absence of adult responsibilities that gobble up mental space, are just some of the things that make children amazingly imaginative and resourceful.
But some kids are born with a unique outlook that goes beyond imagination, and in some cases, they are able to develop their strokes of luck, mistakes, frustrations, or big ideas into magnificent business opportunities and even life-long careers.
Here are some stories where creativity and ingenuity have proven to be an invaluable bonus, and in the process, redefining the meaning of thinking outside the box.
These young inventors will inspire you:
Kelly Reinhart (age 6)
and the T-Pak
During one rainy afternoon when six year old Kelly was stuck indoors, her parents challenged Kelly and her siblings to come up with an idea for an invention in the form of a picture. To spark their creative juices, the parents suggested that the best idea would be transformed into a prototype. Inspired by the concept of cowboy gun holsters, Kelly drew a thigh pack that would make it easier for kids to move around with their video games.
Together with her parents, Kelly sought suggestions from other children before making improvements to the design and patenting it in 1998. They went on to fabricate and sell the packs at trade shows and flea markets, creating more interest in their product.
Eventually, T-Pak International attracted an investor, and her father became a full-time employee for the company. He invested the profits in other companies and later sold the firm in 2001 – at the age of nine.
Abbey Fleck (age 8)
and Makin’ Bacon
Back in 1993 at just 8 years, Abbey became famous for her kitchen tool invention, “Makin’ Bacon”. This invention provided a rather clever way to cook bacon in the microwave in an upright position so it would not be soaked in its own grease.
The idea came to Abbey when she and her father finished cooking bacon only to realize that they had run out of paper towels to absorb the fat. As an alternative, the two improvised by using a section of a newspaper instead. At that moment, Abbey suggested that it would probably be more effective to simply hang the bacon while it cooks. This would not only eliminate the need for paper towels, but also make the bacon healthier.
After experimenting, the duo made a microwave-safe dish with three vertical bars on which users could hang bacon while it cooked. They patented the idea the following year and then struck a distribution deal with Walmart that sent Abbey to multimillionaire status.
Cassidy Goldstein (age 11)
and the Crayon Holders
At only 11 years, Cassidy was faced with a problem that has angered many other creative kids for generations: broken crayons pieces that are too tiny to hold onto. Without giving up, Cassidy searched through her supplies for arts and crafts until she came across a plastic tube used to keep roses fresh during transport.
She inserted one of the smaller crayon pieces into the tube, inadvertently creating her first crayon holder prototype. She designed her Crayon Holders and filed a patent in 2002.
Afterward, she got a licensing deal with Rand International assuring her of 5 percent royalties per sale. CNBC suggested that the invention earned Cassidy enough money to pay for college and even an apartment in New York after finishing school.
The Crayon Holders made it easier for kids to keep coloring with crayon fragments, and also help children with fine motor challenges to grip onto the wax pastels.
Cassidy was named Youth Inventor of the Year by the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation in 2006.
Kiowa Kavovit (age 6)
and the Boo Boo Goo
Although she was not the main developer of a product known as Boo Boo Goo, six year old Kiowa Kavovit was able to pitch it (together with her father) to the investors of the popular TV show “Shark Tank” in early 2014. She is the youngest ever participant on the show, and claims to have come up with the idea when she was only 4 years.
Based on the idea that children, and possibly adults as well, are tired of using adhesive bandages and would rather roll on the Boo Boo Goo – a patent-pending translucent paint on adhesive that acts as a bandage, looks like normal skin, and does not peel off until you decide to do it yourself.
Her product impressed the stern Kevin O’Leary who is usually very pessimistic of investments, and Kiowa left with a $100,000 investment. The idea took off remarkably and sales grew exponentially after its debut on the “Shark Tank”. Afterward, Kiowa became a millionaire.
Richie Stachowski (age 11)
and the Water Talkie
When 11-year-old Richie Stachowski went on holiday to Hawaii with his family in 1996, he was struck with a brilliant idea that led to the invention of the Water Talkie. In an interview, Richie said that he saw so many things underwater when he dived with his father, and wished that he could communicate and share the experience verbally under water.
Afterwards, he realized that there were no devices for this kind of sub-aquatic communication, and decided to start researching underwater acoustics while testing the prototypes in the family pool. Eventually, he created the Water Talkie – a conical device comprising a plastic membrane and blow valve that allows swimmers to talk with each other underwater from a distance of up to 15 feet.
With his new creation, Richie went to New Jersey to pitch his idea to Toys “R” Us and left the meeting with an order of 50,000 units. Stachowski and his mom registered a company called Short Stack LLC and went on to successfully invent other pool toys.
At the age of 13, in 1999, his company was bought by Wild Planet Toys for millions.
Kathryn K-K Gregory (age 10)
and the KK Wristies
Back in 1994 when 10-year-old Kathryn “KK” Gregory was playing in the snow in Massachusetts, she started to experience some pain in his wrists. Determined to keep playing without exposing her hands and arms to the cold and wet conditions during winter, she came up with the idea of Wristies – fuzzy “sleeves” that could be worn under coats and mittens.
KK tried out her invention on her Girl Scout troop, and then worked with her mother to start a business around the product. In an interview, Kathryn said that she enjoyed the initial business activities a lot, including the meetings with the patent lawyer, shopping for fabrics, and meeting with companies like Turtle Fur to write sales agreements and license.
Three years later, in 1997, Kathryn got the opportunity to appear on the QVC Network to promote her Wristies. This made her the youngest person ever to promote a product on the network, and made $22,000 in sales in only 6 minutes.
She continued with her studies and passions, majoring in humanities at the Southern New Hampshire University, discovering rock climbing, and traveling the world. She also got a job as a videographer for several years before returning to Wristies Inc. in 2010 to serve as the CEO (16 years after her invention).
Hart Main (age 13)
and the ManCan
The start of the ManCan online empire is quite intriguing. The business concept was born in 2010 when 13-year-old Hart Main made fun of the girlie-scented candles that his sister intended to sell at a school fundraiser, teasing her that she should try creating some with more masculine scents.
When his parents overheard his comment, they encouraged Hart to try creating the product himself. So, Hart took up the challenge and used the $100 that he had earned from his newspaper route and started experimenting. He bought wax and scents online and used recycled soup cans to make his ManCan candles. The aromas that he started with were Coffee, Cut Grass, Bacon, and New Mitt.
To make his man candles, Hart has to recycle the soup cans. Basically, he buys the filled soup cans, donates their contents to soup kitchens in Ohio, cleans the recycled cans, and then uses them to create his candles. After two years of operation, the business was still steady and growing, so much so that he decided to rent warehouse space and hire five part-timers to cover his orders.
Today, the company has grown so much that they have had to outsource the production to a larger candle manufacturer. He has donated over 100,000 cans of soup so far, and his dedication to his business has earned him the title Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 2015.
Sarah Buckel (age 14)
and the Magnetic Locker Wallpaper
After finishing eighth grade, 14-year-old Sarah Buckel got the idea for magnetic locker wallpapers. Many teens are passionate about decorating their school lockers, but they also dread having to scrape them clean at the end of the year.
So when Sarah’s father became the chief operating officer at MagnaCard, she asked him to make a magnetic wallpaper for her. He was fascinated with the idea and particularly liked that it was refreshing for their little company with rather boring products.
Buckel took an active role in designing and creating the product, helping to identify suitable patterns and age-appropriate accessories that a huge impact on the success of the product. The magnetic locker decorations were sold at Staples, Target, and Rite Aid, and within the first year of operation, Sarah’s invention had made over $1 million in sales.
Leanna Archer (age 9)
and the Leanna’s Hair company
Many nine-year-olds barely know anything about responsibilities, but Leanna Archer was already trying to make money with her Haitian great-grandmother’s special recipe for hair pomade which she used to make hair care products.
Her Haitian grandmother would send Archer’s family homemade hair care products that Leanna shared with her friends, who liked them a lot. Soon enough, people started to show up on her doorstep with money to purchase the products, all of which are entirely organic.
So, she decided to start her own beauty care Product Company called Leanna’s Hair. She started a line of oils, conditioners, and hairdressing based on the recipe. Her products are all-natural, they yield results, don’t damage the hair, and have no known health concerns associated with many chemicals.
By age 17, in 2013, she handled about 350 orders online every week and generated $100,000 in revenue annually. Unsatisfied with the status of teen CEO with a six-figure company, Archer decided to start a charitable organization called the Leanna Archer Education Foundation, which provides poverty-stricken children in Haiti with food and education. Currently, the foundation supports about 200 children in Haiti.
Leanna is currently majoring in Political Science in college and hopes to get a position in the government where she can make the most impact economically and socially.
Robert Nay (age 14)
and the Bubble Ball Game
New mobile gaming apps typically get a few hundred or thousand (if they’re popular) downloads in the first few weeks after launch.
The 14-year old computer prodigy programmed a physics puzzle game app (Bubble Ball) that got over 1 million downloads within two weeks of launching, knocking the smash hit game Angry Birds out of Apple’s App Store top spot of the most popular free apps. In the process, Apple made $2 million in revenue, and Robert became a millionaire.
Nay says that he got the idea when some of his friends suggested that he make an iPhone app, and he decided to give it a try. Without any prior coding experience, Robert went to the public library to find information about how he could build his game. The idea for the game was his, though he says that other games he enjoyed and suggestions from people influenced the final result. It took him one month of reading books and 4,000 lines of code to complete the Bubble Ball. The only money he spent on the project was $1,200 which he got from his parents to buy a new Macbook and get legit software licenses.
Robert’s company, Nay Games, launched the iOS version of the game on December 29, 2010. A few years later, the app has been installed on over 16 million devices, making the young entrepreneur very successful. He still develops games under his brand.
. Final Note
These are really inspiring stories that remind people who have an idea or want to start a business that they don’t need a lot of money to get started. You also don’t need to be a genius, scientist, or adult to be an inventor. However, kids are known to be curious and imaginative; and sometimes, looking at things in a new way can give you the insight to start something great.