Until children reach a certain age, enrichment programs are somewhat limited to school, sports, and camps, while opportunities to earn money are largely non-existent.
Today, an LA-based start-up, founded a year ago, Powerful, a kind of Shopify that invites the youngest to open an online store, aims to partly fill the void. In fact, Mighty – led by founders Ben Goldhirsh, who previously founded GOOD magazine, and Dana Mauriello, who spent nearly five years with Etsy and most recently was an advisor to Sidewalk Labs – hopes to appeal to families with the ground that ‘It operates at the center of fintech, ed tech and entertainment.
As often happens, the concept came from the founders’ own experience. In this case, Goldhirsh, who lives in Costa Rica, began to worry about her two daughters, who attend a small six-person school. Because he feared they might fall behind their American peers, he began tutoring them when they returned home, using Khan Academy among other software platforms. However, the reaction of the girls was not exactly positive.
“They were like, ‘Fuck you, daddy. We just finished school and now you’re gonna make us do more school? ‘ “
Not knowing what to do, he encouraged them to sell the bracelets they were making online, believing it would teach them the necessary math skills, as well as start-up capital, business plans (he made them write some a) and marketing. . It worked, he says, and as he told his friends about this successful “project-based learning effort” they started asking him if he could. their the children get up and run.
Fast forward and Goldhirsh and Mauriello – who ran a crowdfunding platform that Goldhirsh invested in before joining Etsy – say they now run a still-beta startup that’s home to 3,000 “CEOs,” as Mighty calls them. .
The interest is not surprising. Children spend more time online than at any time in history. Many real-world businesses that once could have employed young children are shrinking in size. In addition to babysitting or selling cookies around the corner, it is also difficult to find a job before high school, given that the Ministry of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets the minimum age for admission to employment at 14. (Even so, many employers are concerned that their young employees may represent more work than is worth.)
Investors also think it’s a pretty solid idea. Mighty recently closed a $ 6.5 million seed funding led by Animo Ventures, with participation from Maveron, Humbition, Sesame Workshop, Collaborative Fund and NaHCO3, a family office.
Still, building a platform for kids is tricky. For starters, few 11-year-olds have the tenacity to maintain their own businesses over time. While Goldhirsh likens the business to a “21st century lemonade stand,” running a business that doesn’t dissolve in the late afternoon is a very different proposition.
Goldhirsh acknowledges that no kid wants to hear that he has to “get by” in his business or follow a certain path, and he says Mighty certainly sees kids showing up for a weekend to make money. Yet, he insists, many others have an unmistakable entrepreneurial spirit and say they tend to stick around. In fact, Goldhirsh says, the company – aided by its new seed funding – has a long way to go to satisfy its hungriest young CEOs.
Many are frustrated, for example, at not being able to sell their own homemade items through Mighty. Instead, they’re invited to sell items like hats, bags, and stickers that they personalize that are made by Mighty’s current manufacturing partner, printable, who then ships the item to the end customer. (Mighty’s CEO gets a percentage of the sale, as does Mighty.)
They can also sell items made by artisans around the world through a partnership Mighty has entered into. New, an impact marketplace that also sells through National Geographic.
The idea was to introduce as little friction as possible into the process initially, but “our customers are pissed off – they want more of us,” says Goldhirsh, explaining that Mighty intends to allow his customers one day. smaller entrepreneurs to sell their own items, as well as services (think lawn care), which the platform also doesn’t currently support.
As for how he makes money, Mighty plans to eventually add subscription services, as well as collect transaction-based income.
It’s intriguing, overall, although the startup might need to push back established players like Shopify if it starts to gain traction.
It’s also conceivable that parents – if not advocates for children – could push back on what Mighty is trying to do. Entrepreneurship can be alternately exhilarating and demoralizing, after all; it’s a roller coaster that some might not want kids to ride from an early age.
Mauriello insists they haven’t had those kinds of comments to date. On the one hand, she says, Mighty recently started an online community where her young CEOs can cheer each other on and exchange sales tips, and she says they’re actively involved.
She also argues that, like playing sports or learning a musical instrument, there are lessons to be learned from setting up a store on Mighty. Storytelling and how to sell are part of it, but critically, she says, the company’s young clients are learning that “you can fail, take it back and try again.”
Goldhirsch adds, “There are definitely kids out there who are like, ‘Oh, this is harder than I thought. I can’t just run the site and watch the money roll in. ‘ But I think they like the fact that the success they see, they earn it, because we don’t do it for them.