Bryan Zak has worked with many small businesses owners on the Kenai Peninsula over the years, but he recently counseled the youngest entrepreneur he’s yet seen.
Seven-year-old Rohan Lamb made an appointment late last month to get some sound advice for a mobile ice cream business and feedback on his marketing plans to boost it.
“I’m a sole proprietor,” Rohan said of his business called “Ice Cream Rohan.” He hopes to take a share of the neighborhood ice cream market in Soldotna. On average Rohan will undersell his grownup competition by about $1.75 per unit and bring an ice cream treat down to $2.
Zak, the southwest regional director of the Alaska Small Business Development Center, said Rohan visited to talk about his business ideas and get feedback on the approach of a mobile ice cream stand for kids sold by a kid. His work with Rohan covered the principle of capacity and capability along with products and numbers.
Behind the budding entrepreneur’s drive to start his own business is a toy stuffed eagle that he wanted to buy. Rohan’s mother Jhasmine is partly responsible as well.
“When he asked for the money I realized that he could start earning his own money,” she said.
The drive to let kids learn the value of money through earning it with their own small business is one that has gained steam in the last few years with the creation of National Lemonade Day, which saw about 2,000 kids statewide sell about $250,000 worth of the classic drink earlier in the spring.
Rohan is definitely the youngest person Zak has ever worked with and likely the first 7-year-old to use the service in the state. Zak said that Rohan was more organized with a digital presentation of his plan and questions than many adults with existing businesses.
“I wish that all of my clients were that organized,” he said.
While Rohan may be the youngest to use the service in Alaska, grade-school entrepreneurs are not uncommon nationally. Forbes Magazine has detailed many business-starting children selling items such as pencil bugs, cell phone socks, custom designs on T-shirts, dog treats and homemade soaps.
While some child-created businesses grow big fast, making thousands of dollars monthly, many of the kids featured by Forbes sell 200 or less units monthly. What starts as a desire to make some money for themselves or for charity turns into a lifestyle and work ethic.
According to Vincent King at moneyning.com, child entrepreneurs are driven to see what they can do and what they can earn.
“They constantly have new projects in the works, and their thoughts are almost always money or business centric,” he said.
“There is no ceiling on what the future holds for him,” Zak said of Rohan. “It’s fun to see him (building a business) at an early age, to open the doors of knowledge that he will be able to use for the rest of his life.”
On sunny days throughout summer Rohan plans to ride through different areas of his neighborhood selling drumsticks, popsicles, ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches from a custom trailer that he built with his mom.
Rohan even has the right music from the classic ice cream music composer Michael Hurst, “Songs for Ice Cream Trucks.” His exact routes will be posted on his Facebook page at “facebook.com/IceCreamRohan.”
Jhasmine Lamb said that she hopes her son’s selling of ice cream will introduce him to business principles that will come into play when he opens a larger business later in life.
According to Entrepeneur.com the average ice cream stand start-up costs are between $2,000 and $10,000 and a mobile ice cream stand has extra benefit of going to areas where demand is greatest for the product. For some, profits reach $50,000 during a three-month summer.
Rohan and his business partner (mom) invested about $300 in product and equipment before heading out on a sunny afternoon last week for his inaugural neighborhood route to see if his sales pitch worked.
Greg Skinner is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.