Got a budding Branson on your hands? Two mums tell Kate Springer how their teens achieved their business dreams.
Filipino-born Myka Umali, 16, launched Philippines-based charity Liter of Light into Hong Kong. Mum Odette tells us how.
Your daughter Myka kick-started a non-government organisation (NGO) in Hong Kong. How did that come about?
Myka researched service opportunities that she could get involved in and she found Liter of Light, an international NGO established in the Philippines that did not have any presence in Hong Kong.
What exactly does Liter of Light do?
It uses simple engineering to light up rural villages that have no access to electricity, using locally available renewable materials and solar energy. It then teaches the villagers how to do it themselves.
How has Myka expanded the NGO in Hong Kong?
She presented Liter of Light to her school during an assembly and has reached out to the wider community by seeking sponsors and setting up workshops to teach people about solar technology. Her first goal is to raise enough to light up a village and then bring volunteers to the village to assemble the light and teach people how to set them up and maintain them.
What inspired her to get involved?
Engineering, renewable materials and green energy are things she’s really interested in. She also spent part of her childhood in the Philippines and is very aware of the gap between rich and poor. As parents, we’ve been really happy to support her, both financially and also such as making sure she got to meet the key people on a trip to Manila last year.
How do you think her education influenced her entrepreneurial spirit?
Her early childhood education was under the Montessori system where she was allowed to work on things at her own pace and focus on whatever interested her. We think this was a good foundation, which led her to develop an independent, inquisitive mind and an action- oriented attitude — all basic ingredients for an entrepreneurial spirit.
How do you think this experience has been valuable?
I think the most important thing from this experience is that she has developed compassion for others. Many kids and adults are trained to develop useful skills, but character formation is more difficult to develop. This has also developed her confidence in making things happen.
Has the experience taught you anything?
As a mother, you realise that the way you support your child also evolves as the child grows up. There will always be a balancing act since you would want your child to be successful, but you also want her to own it and feel that she is responsible for it. You want to protect her from failures and setbacks but, at the same time, you want her to develop resilience and character.
Two years ago, Armann (now 13) and Ananye (now 10) started their own toy-making business, Boom Enterprise. Mum Preeti explains how it went.
How did the boys get started?
They were trying to keep busy during their holidays. With the limited resources they had at home, they made some toys. Through trial and error, they came up with some ingenious ideas – balloon-powered cars and slingshots made with rubber bands strung on Rainbow Looms and popsicle sticks. These items sold very well. The second time around, they made rubber-band-powered guns — which don’t hurt — small soap-powered boats, crossbows, and also potted plants which they managed to grow at home. The boys then entered the pinworld.co Young Entrepreneurs Contest and ended up winning.
How did they drum up the finances to get started?
They decided to sell their old toys and books to make some money for the business, which raised about $750. They ended up making a gross revenue of $310 the first time round.
How did you feel about the business?
We thought this was a fantastic opportunity for them to learn about budgeting, investment, expenditure, sales and marketing, and they would achieve a sense of accomplishment.
Did you offer any help?
We gave them a little marketing advice. Hong Kong is not a very big city and it’s relatively easy to reach out to people who help spread the word. I’ve given them a bit of a push by telling my friends with children.
What have you learned?
Wow, lots. They never gave up. They worked very hard on many items. They spent days handcrafting each piece with precision and accuracy, keeping the aesthetics in mind. Their excitement has been very contagious.
Take the next step
OWN Academy is running leadership and entrepreneurship camps for young people this summer. The Entrepreneurship Program includes workshops, company visits and opportunities to meet business leaders from successful local social enterprises and corporations. Jun 14-17, 10am-6pm, ages 14-22. For info on this and more youth development courses, contact email@example.com or see ownacademy.co.