Teen Tips for Entrepreneurship - Page 2 of 3 - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Cotrac Co. ‘s SmartButton Teaching Device

Joel WilliamsEXCJoel Williams, a high school sophomore from Temple, Texas, is the inventor of SmartButton, a shoe attachment he developed at age 9 while helping his three-year-old sister try to learn the difference between her left foot and her right foot. The product, which verbally instructs children and the disabled or blind how to differentiate between right and left, was so successful that in 2008 he made $30,000.

In addition to SmartButton, Williams is moving on to motivational speaking. He produced a DVD which endorses his product and motivates kids to become inventors and follow their dreams.

“There is a huge market of school districts out there and my plans are to make sure every school has a copy someday soon,” says Williams, winner of the Black Enterprise 2007 Teenpreneur Award for entrepreneurs under the age of 18.

But between developing his products, getting patent protection, meeting with newspapers and televisions shows and marketing his product, it’s easy for Joel to forget that he’s only 15 years old. Yet, he is confident that if teens follow his advice, they will get their business started on the right foot.

Learn to sacrifice. Sometimes it is hard to choose between doing work at the business as opposed to hanging out with friends, but Williams, who often stays up late at night to do homework says that working long hours to achieve your goals are a necessity. “You have to be able to look into the future and see the rewards that come with owning your own business.”

Williams once missed out on a party all his friends planned to attend because he had to film his motivational DVD that day. “I felt like I was missing out at first but, after completing the filming, I felt great and knew that all my friends would want to view the DVD when it became available.”

Be self-motivated. Being an entrepreneur comes from within, says Williams, who sells his product over the Internet. “I think that truly great inventors are born with something different inside. When you start to feel overwhelmed, Williams encourages teens to think of the many benefits of entrepreneurship, including the attention you’ll get from friends, fans, and the media. Making money is not a bad incentive either, he says.

Rely on friends and family for support. Williams keeps an intense schedule. He wakes up at 5:45am to prepare orders that come in overnight then attends band practice at 6:45. He spends four to five hours on afterschool activities and after doing homework he usually goes to bed after midnight. “Sometimes there are many things going on at one time and I do feel pressure to do things the right way,” says Williams, who manages a staff that consists of three people; his mom, dad, and little sister, but plans to hire additional help.

Despite working for him for free, his parents do their part to minimize his stress and keep him balanced. During the day while he is at school they ship out orders and make phone calls that can only be made during the day.  “I am very fortunate to have my [parents] to help me when needed,” he says.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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