When I teach kids about entrepreneurialism, I explain to them that solving a problem is an important component of a strong business idea. Meanwhile, there are plenty of young entrepreneurs teaching me that they have an amazing capacity to create new solutions to very personal and tough problems that impact many people. So today, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to three of these self-starters. Each is combining profit and purpose in ways that can inspire us all.
12-Year Old Cancer Survivor Designs a Mobile Device Like No Other
When we think of innovative mobile devices, phones and apps come to mind. But for children who have cancer, being mobile takes on a whole new meaning.
In the U.S. alone, more than 15,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year. Kylie Simonds was one of those children, diagnosed at the age of eight with Rhabdomyosarcoma. She spent countless hours connected to an IV machine. The IV machines were cumbersome and totally restricted her movement. She explained that even when kids get to go to a summer camp for cancer patients, they end up spending hours in the infirmary receiving treatments.
This was not acceptable to Kylie, so she got to work and designed a mobile IV backpack. Her invention has since won four awards, including the highest available (the patent award) at an innovation event for kids. The patent award allowed Kylie’s invention to be submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, all costs covered. She and her family then raised $55,000 on the crowdfunding site, gofundme.com. Now her parents are working with the people behind Pillow Pets to design a functioning prototype and move on to manufacturing, making this young girl’s vision a reality.
17-Year Old Creates Candles to Shine Light on Mental Illness
When I spoke to social entrepreneur Alexis Kauchick, the 17-year old founder of Eternal Essence Candles, she proudly shared, “I have sold $20,000 in candles over the past week and a half. I come home, make candles, and go to bed at 2 a.m. - it’s so exciting!”
Alexis’ success comes from the non-profit she built from a very personal experience. After the deaths of her older brother and a friend, both of whom had struggled with mental illness, she decided to raise money for organizations and help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
Why candles? Her brother made them as a hobby and she wanted to honor him. Her mother thought it was a great idea and saw it as a way for her daughter to cope. Alexis explained, “I was down. It was a way to stay busy and keep him with me.” She started selling her products at local craft shows and boutiques and then expanded to her own website.
Alexis is currently launching two new signature candles and has developed a relationship with the John’s Hopkins Medicine Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (ADAP). She created the new scents for ADAP with all profits going to the program, which educates high school students, teachers and parents about the illnesses of depression and bipolar disorder. As Alexis told me, “The ADAP program is a way for young people to reach out for help without feeling ostracized. By creating an educated society and schools, we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.” In addition to raising awareness and money nationally through her candles, she’s going to help bring the ADAP program to schools in Florida.
24-Year Old Dancer Becomes Diabetes Fashionista
Kyrra Richards was a 24-year old professional dancer who had just returned from a performance for the troops in Afghanistan when she was diagnosed with type I diabetes.
This totally unexpected turn of events slowed Kyrra down as she tried to figure out what would come next for her. She started to look for something she could take ownership of, something she could do mentally while dealing with, and adjusting to, her new physical situation.
Going out on the town had changed for Kyrra. “I was carrying around this thing (a case with all the diabetes equipment),” she said. “My physical capabilities were compromised and I was in denial, and then there I was holding something that was a physical representation of it.” And from those feelings arose her idea to give diabetes a makeover by creating fashionable accessories for diabetics like her.
She shared her idea of transforming diabetes through fashion and style with a few of her closest friends. Each brought a different skill set to the new venture; one was a marketer, another in finance and the third a lawyer. Together they have launched Myabetic and have brought her designs to fruition. The products range from adorable and fun cases for kids, to stylish and sophisticated ones for men and women.
Thousands of people have already supported these three youthful and bright creators, whether it’s through the purchase of a candle or joining in to crowdsource meaningful product development. To help startups that combine profit and purpose to grow into a bigger trend, we simply need to recognize entrepreneurs who are using business to change our world for the better and get behind them.