Wonder Years

A child's imagination can make for a bright business idea.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A great business idea can come from anywhere--even your child's imagination. How? "Encourage [your children], empower them, inspire them and say to them, 'What a great idea!'" says Norm Goldstein, founder and CEO of By Kids For Kids, an organization that offers free guidance to help kids (and their parents) develop, patent and market inventions.

Paul and Hermine Brindak encouraged their daughter, Juliette, then 10 years old, when she conceived the idea for Miss O and Friends. Says Paul, "She created this world where tween girls can be tween girls." What started out as drawings and stories about her friends' best traits--like being great at sports or having a love for writing--turned into a website in 2005 that celebrates girlhood, missoandfriends.com. A family enterprise for Paul, 54, and Hermine, 49, along with Juliette, now 18, and her sister, Olivia, 12, Miss O and Friends has become a lifestyle brand. Today, Juliette pens an advice column and serves as spokesperson and managing editor for the website. The Old Greenwich, Connecticut, company has created books, stationery and jewelry. Its popularity among tweens has even spawned a partnership with Yahoo!, spurring seven-figure sales.

Love for his younger brother inspired 5-year-old Jace Richards to write a book with his mom, Donna Richards, 40, to educate other kids about autism. Jace didn't like it when other kids made fun of his autistic brother, Justin, then 4. Together, Jace and Donna wrote My Brother's Keeper: A Kindergartner's View of Autism in 2004. "[Other] children didn't understand, but Jace was determined to make them understand," says Donna. The overwhelmingly positive reaction from their local school inspired Donna to create Rome, Georgia-based My Brother's Keeper, which provides autism-related products and resources. She also launched MBK Publishing to self-publish the book. The book's appearance on QVC has helped push combined annual sales to $340,000.

It's a family affair for Jasmine Lawrence, 16, and her mom, April. At age 13, Jasmine created a gentle and natural hair oil that would reverse the damage of harsh salon chemicals. After attending the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship business camp, she was inspired to market her creation to others. What started by mixing ingredients in her bedroom turned into the Eden Bodyworks LLC line of hair products, body lotions and candles. April, in her early 30s, helped her daughter with packaging, bar codes, graphic design and the website. Today, they've built their Williamstown, New Jersey, company to sales of more than $1 million, with products in private salons as well as retailers such as Whole Foods. "Just be your kids' biggest cheerleader," says April.

Wayne Elsey recalls that listening to his daughter in 2003 led to the beginning of ShoeTalkers, a line of shoe accessories (worn on shoelaces) with original messages and artwork. Melissa, 13 at the time, asked her dad, "Why don't you give people a way to express themselves on their feet?" Wayne, 42, a shoe industry veteran, saw the brilliance and simplicity of his daughter's idea. Now, more than 330 designs later, this Old Hickory, Tennessee, company's sales reach into the seven figures, with expressions like Pimp Daddy, #1 Brat or WWJD on its shoe tags. Melissa, now 18, is still Wayne's muse. "I have a pretty simple philosophy: encourage, motivate and execute," he says. "Encourage [your children] to be creative, motivate them to do it, and execute--always listen for the ideas. They may give you several hundred ideas, [but] one of them may stick."

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