« Geeks on a Plane: The power of the Latin American market | Main | IBM SmartCamp winners revealed »

Kid entrepreneurs who really 'get it'

A few weeks ago, I received a press release and call about a 9-year-old from Los Angeles with her own business. I explained to her PR person (yes, she had one) that we stay very local in our coverage here, and besides that, we have our own child entrepreneurs doing amazing things.

And do we ever. South Florida's young entrepreneurs -- from grade school on up -- are showing us how it's done. Later this week, for instance, The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE South Florida) will be having its business plan competition involving top South Florida high school entrepreneurs. The two top winners on Wednesday will compete in the national NFTE competition in New York City, the same competition won by South Floridian Jessica Cervantes in 2008 for her Popsy Cakes.

And just last week we announced our winners of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge's High School Track, which drew excellent entries from all over South Florida. The judging process for that was very much like the adult tracks, with judges discussing the entrants' marketing strategies, whether the business could scale and whether the startup costs were realistic, for instance. The winners: an app for aggragating sports team news, a cookbook for kids that teaches math and an online platform for promoting emerging musicians and connecting them with clients. (See pictures at bottom.)

WithappAnd it doesn't stop there. After we announced those winners last week, I received an email from an eighth-grader who developed a parenting iPhone and iPad app already on the market. Ahan Malhotra, of Ransom Everglades Middle School and pictured at right, has set up a corporation called Random Widgets Inc. "My mom is the president because I am a minor, " he says.

Random Widgets' app is called iBehave, and it helps kids improve their behavior by rewarding them with marbles in a jar, and when they collect enough marbles, they win a predetermined prize. "Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and while Rewards Charts work, young kids need more immediate feedback. At the moment their child behaves in a way they want to encourage or discourage, parents can provide immediate feedback by opening their iDevice and showing the child that marbles have been added or subtracted from their jar," Ahan said in his press release. Read his press release under the media section of his website, randomwidgets.com, which explains in depth how his app works and its main features. His appsells for 99 cents at the iTunes App Store here.

Ahan said he started developing apps for Apple as a hobby, but it has escalated. He also has developed websites for family and friends. His trips for other young entrepreneurs: Always follow your dreams. Use all resources available, never be afraid to ask for help, and take your time to make your product the best that it can be. "I hope I can be an inspiration to other kids who are interested in pursuing their passion," Ahan said.
I hope to see Ahan enter the Business Plan Challenge high school track next year!

And in South Florida, we go even younger! In a story in yesterday's Money section, Julie Landry Laviolette, a freelance writer and entrepreneur herself, profiled three entrepreneurs from around South Florida -- all of them in the fourth grade -- who have thriving businesses with social missions. One of them, 9-year-old Jessica Nedry, had even entered the Business Plan Challenge, spurring me to assign the story. Read the story about Jessica's FriendlyBands, Felipe Diaz-Arango's SuperKandies (he started it when he was 5 -- still going strong) and Grace Barr's Wags to Riches here. (See their pictures at bottom)

I particularly loved Grace's comment about the importance of customer service: "If you have customers asking if you have this or that -- even if you're busy with school -- you have to try to satisfy them."
Well said, Grace.
High School Business Plan Challenge winners, 2012
Above, top photo, Louis Segall, Cole Press, for TeamBeam. Story here.
(Photo by Patrick Farrel/Miami Herald Staff)
Above, middle photo, Nelysa Ventura, Cupcake 1+2=3 Cookbook. Story here.
(Photo By Marice Cohn Band/Miami Herald Staff)
Above, bottom photo: Carlos Cruz-Taura, Music Connection. Story here.
(Photo by Marsha Halper/Miami Herald Staff)
Read about all the Challenge winners:
Above, top photo, Jessica Nedry of FriendlyBands
(Photo by Joe Rimcus Jr./Miami Herald Staff)
Middle: Felipe Diaz-Agango of SuperKandies.
(Photo by Peter Andrew Bosch/Miami Herald Staff)
Bottom photo: Grace Barr of Waggs to Riches
(Photo provided by family)
Read the story about their companies here.
Who are other young entrepreneurs in South Florida to watch?