By Drew Dixon The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville.
Romy Commander loves pets, and she's hoping to turn that into a capitalist venture.
The only obstacle for the North Jacksonville 12-year-old is that she has no idea how to run a company if she follows through with her dream of starting a pet-care business. That's why she turned to the newly formed Internet site, KidEntrepreneur.biz.
"Well, I have a dog of my own and I love dogs and taking care of animals. That's why I wanted to start a business like that," Romy said.
Romy is heading into the seventh grade at Jacksonville's LaVilla School of the Arts, where she's an aspiring dancer. But she said she wants some business background in case she needs to pursue other avenues.
Through a link on the social network site Pinterest, she said she found the website KidEntrepreneur.biz.
The next thing she knew, Romy had all kinds of information from the site that provides business tips to kids who want to start some kind of company, most likely over the summer. The site provides advice for running everything from a lemonade stand to pet-care operations to lawn maintenance ventures.
Romy said it was exactly what she needed when she found it about a month ago.
"I think this might help me mature more and get better and become more responsible in what I do," she said. One of the main tips for kids was to develop fliers and logos in an effort to help them market and promote their young businesses and it's been a big help, Romy said. Her dad has helped hand out some of the fliers.
"It makes me feel like I can do good in life and I actually have a chance to grow up and be a better person," she said. The website, created by venture capitalists based in Jacksonville, stresses it is an effort to help kids understand business.
"KidEntrepreneur creates kid-sized franchises to teach and inspire a new generation of young entrepreneurs," the site's home page says.
The site then provides free PDF file downloads that provide business models for young people hoping to start a business.
For instance, there are files for "Lawn Enforcement" that explains how to start a lawn-maintenance business. "The Crate Escape" details how to run a dog-walking business, and "The Main Squeeze" provides the nuances of running lemonade stands.
"It's actually taking off very quickly," KidEntrepreneur.biz founder Robert Thomas said. "This isn't really about making money back. It's more about inspiring kids to be entrepreneurs."
Thomas' venture capitalist group, Bizapity LLC, helped get the KidEntrepreneur.biz site going. It had a booth at the One Spark crowdfunding festival in downtown Jacksonville in April.
That's where Thomas said he met John Prater. Prater agreed to manage the operation and get the website running while refining its message for the kids. Other partners of Thomas are managing website development and other operations.
The operation cost about $30,000 to get running, Thomas said, but it has gained traction.
KidEntrepreneur.biz has had more than 5,000 Facebook likes and 4,000 downloads of the kits. About 600 people have shared the free PDF kits on Facebook walls, Thomas said. Interest is now coming from all over the United States, too.
Prater said the business educational program for kids is divided into age groups. There are outlines for children ages 8 to 12 and then from 13 to 18. The older the kids are, the more sophisticated the business kits become, Prater said.
"It's about teaching kids a different mind-set and shifting from employee to employer," Prater said. "This creates something fun and exciting and, oh, by the way, they can turn a profit and see how the world works for entrepreneurs."
Prater said the website is still in its developmental phase and there are plans to establish a national charter to form a more cohesive network. Ideally, Prater said members of the network will have monthly meetings on a local basis -- wherever they live -- and share their experiences in dealing with capitalism at a young age. It would be akin to the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, but for the business-minded.
"They'll come in and talk about their successes and failures together. They'll have a mentor there from some sort of industry," Prater said. "There are so many different topics that you could settle on. Then we could have projects and contests."
Prater acknowledged the plans are big and will take time to develop. But KidEntrepreneur.biz aims to fill a void in business education that most kids simply aren't getting in schools.
"There are only four states in our union right now that require some sort of financial education before a kid leaves high school; Florida is not one of them," Prater said. "Nobody's really in that [business] mind-set. They're taught in a certain way to stand in line and not to look out of the box and create something. That's what we want to bring out of these kids."
The link between kids and a business mind-set is the payoff for KidEntrepreneur.biz because Bizapity, the company behind the website, specializes in business development.
Bizapity has a priority in incubating businesses. It was formed in 2013 with Thomas and two other principals forming the management structure. The company's offices are on North Main Street in Jacksonville.