April 4, 2022
People & Places

Young ambition: School-age start-ups

Age is no barrier to business acumen, or turning a profit. As these entrepreneurial young people demonstrate, the future is in good hands.

Eli Jones
Mr Pinecone
Swiftly dodging swooping plovers on his nan’s farm near Millicent, Eli Jones trawls the grounds for one of the Limestone Coast’s most cost-effective winter fire-starters: pinecones.

Tapping into the region’s fondness for roaring wood fires during the chilly months, the 10-year-old promptly started up a delivery business for the popular all-in-one kindling, marketing himself as Mr Eli Pinecone.

Starting in early 2021, Eli says the idea for the business came about as a way to get some extra pocket money.

“Me and Mum wanted to start a business and we didn’t know what to do. I said, ‘How about we go pick up pinecones?’,” he says

“We weren’t sure if they were going to sell but we just gave it a go. Now, Mum has her job and I have my job.”

The idea led to weekend family gathering sessions in the dead of winter, filling Dad’s trailer with hundreds of pinecones, found freely scattered around the base of pine trees.

Packed into 10-kilogram bags, the bags are weighed and stored until customers need them, messaging the business’s Facebook page for delivery.

Signing off the Facebook posts with his own special logo and the tagline “stay warm”, the business was so popular in its first year of operations, they sold out of product.

Although there’s definitely some ‘Mum supervision’ involved, Eli’s mum Em says her son has always been the chief decision-maker.

“Eli goes up with the bags, knocks on the doors and announces himself as Mr Eli Pinecone,” she says.

“He’s been experimenting with price discounts, learning how to get return customers and he’s really grasped the concept of profit.”

Aside from a fun way to earn money, Em says the lessons learned will benefit Eli later in life.

“It’s so important that he develops an understanding of the value of money and grows up with a solid work ethic,” she says.

Celebrating his first year of business in September, Eli already has big plans for next year.

“We’re going to get merchandise,” he announces, proudly. “Hoodies, socks and hats with the Mr Pinecone logo and some feel-good slogans on it.”

Eli’s advice to other kids wanting to start a business was simple: go for it.

“Always start somewhere,” he says. “You just gotta give it a go.”

Jess Tresidder
Wild Hazel Designs
A licence to drive has sparked a world of opportunity for Mount Gambier’s Jess Tresidder, with a thriving Etsy business and national recognition for her entrepreneurial savvy.

After getting her P-plates earlier this year and scouting around online for memorable key accessories, the 16-year-old spotted personalised keychains and decided to create her own.

Purchasing a second-hand etching machine, Jess started making her own tasselled keyrings, first reaching out to friends and family and then spreading the net wider.

Launching under the name Wild Hazel Designs on online marketplace Etsy in February, Jess was overwhelmed with demand for the personalised trinkets.

“In three weeks, I was an Etsy bestseller,” she says. “I think it’s taken off because it’s just a small item you can buy as a gift. Mums are buying them for daughters and friends for friends.”

A busy day for Jess can see up to 70 orders flooding her inbox, with income averaging $850 a week. Juggling the business with full-time schooling and two other part-time jobs, the Year 11 student admits there’s no time for slacking or social media scrolling when orders are awaiting. Packed in a signature pink envelope, the personal touch is important for Jess, who sends handwritten cards with each order.

“I like to relate to people and go one step further to make that connection,” she says.

When a Sydney-based customer wrote her a message saying she’d lost her job due to COVID, a kind-hearted Jess went one step further.

“I sent her a keychain as well as the one for her friend, and I offered her a job,” she says simply. “We bought her a machine, shipped it to her, videoed directions for her and she helped me out for a few weeks while she was looking for another job.”

As news of her business spread, a shocked Jess was awarded a $15,000 scholarship from Business News Australia in August as recognition of her entrepreneurial talent. Along with mentoring and financial advice, a savvy Jess says she’ll use the money to advance her own business skillset to fit around her university goals.

“I’m aware this is not going to last forever but I can implement it for something else, such as upskilling,” she says.

“I’ve made so many connections and I’m so grateful for all the people who have reached out in support.”

Family members are keenly aware they’ll get roped in for duty during busy times, which has led to some amusing father/daughter business conversations.

“Dad said, ‘You have to pay your employees, Jess.’ So, I pay my brother Josh $20 an hour and Dad gets $10 or $15,” she says.

“At the end of the day, Dad has a full-time job and I’m his daughter.”

Henry and Cooper Medhurst
Two Bros Dough
Two young brothers have hit on a sweet recipe for success, and all before they reach their teens.

Under the banner of Two Bros Dough, Cooper and Henry Medhurst’s ready-to-bake cookie dough has proved so popular that they’ve been asked to stock their products at local Mount Gambier supermarkets and dessert bars.

Dreaming up business ideas a year ago, the boys dismissed more traditional concepts such as car washing and lawn mowing for a far more satisfying theme.

“Cookie dough is just so much easier and more popular; very popular,” 12-year-old Cooper says.

Testing out their products on the public for the first time at a local summer market, the boys were blown away by the response.

“It was insane. We sold out more than 100 tubs on the first day. We had to come home and make 50 more tubs for the second day,” Cooper says.

With flavours including Fairy Bread, Chocolate Overload and Traditional Choc Chip, the brothers’ sales pitch is simple.

“People think our parents made it, so we tell them it’s made by us and ready to bake. If they ask what the best flavour is, we say all of them,” says Henry, aged 11.

“I think it’s because we’re young and people like to see us in our own business,” Cooper adds.

Now selling an average of 15 to 20 tubs per week, dough mixing sessions dominate weekends and after-school activities. Mum Megan helps with the measuring and the odd bit of motivation but the boys do the majority of the work. The brothers say they’ve learned a lot about running their own business, including price points, marketing, and even how to impress new clients. Through their Facebook page, the boys say word of mouth has been king.

“It feels good to see people coming back again and again. People say things like, ‘At first I got one tub and I came back to try some more’,” Cooper says.

Cooper has also found that a summons to see a teacher at school could now be cookie related. “They see us on Facebook and they say, ‘I’ve been looking for you, can I buy one or two, or five?’.”

Megan says she’s impressed with the commitment and dedication shown by her boys.

“We’ve seen some ‘Oh, Mum, I don’t want to do this,’ moments, but they’re always good. They mix and package, label, add expiry dates and have their own spreadsheet.”

Although Megan is keen to see them save for some long-term monetary goals, such as a car, the brothers have more pressing needs.

“We’re both saving up for the PS5 and we’ve paid it off,” Henry says, with a grin.

“We put most of it into savings but we spend a little. It feels good to know we’ve got money in the bank.”

This story first appeared in the December 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.


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