Have you ever met a child who seems more like an adult than a kid? A child who is so mature and driven that you want to take a step back and ask, “Are you sure you’re 6-years-old?” That’s what we thought about Prosper local and 6-year-old candy entrepreneur Sammy.
When Sammy was 5-years-old, he already had business at the top of his mind. His mom Carolyn would read business books to him, such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Way of the Warrior Kid. They discussed marketing and merchandising ideas when playing with his toys—“What do you think is the best part of that toy?” “If you made a toy, what do you think everyone would like about it?” They also watched Shark Tank together (“[He] likes that Mark Cuban doesn’t have to wear a tie,” Carolyn says.) In addition to his business mindset, Sammy has a giving spirit. At one point, he collected hundreds of shoes by going door-to-door after he learned that children in areas of Uganda didn’t have shoes.
So one day, Sammy decided he wanted to start his own business with the purpose of giving back to others. “Sam came strutting out early one morning saying he needed goals in his life,” Carolyn says. (Can you imagine?) “One of the goals was owning a business—he had lots of ideas for businesses. I told him it would have to be something he knew about [and] he would have to do the work.”
Sammy ultimately settled on selling candy because it was something he knew kids like. But to get the business started, he needed funds to purchase his first candy vending machine. “He fed horses and did math pages [for] a quarter a page,” Carolyn says; apparently he was doing third grade math before kindergarten. “He earned enough for the [candy] machine, but had to come up with a business plan to present to the bank for a ‘small’ business loan. The bank president came and spent as much, if not more, time with him than anyone else taking out a loan.” Thus, The Chomp Stop was formed.
Once Sammy got his business off the ground, he looked for a way to give back. He decided to help kids with autism, such as his cousin James, so they could start their own businesses. “James has good days and bad days,” Carolyn says. “Vending machines are a business that James could do on good days and still make money on bad days.” Carolyn also mentioned that giving kids with special needs something to own and operate allows the kids to work on business etiquette and math skills. “[This gives them] self-discipline—which is…motivating and empowering,” she says.
Sammy shared his idea with the candy machines manufacturer. “When the manufacturer pledged that for every 10 machines Sammy bought they would donate one to a child with autism, Sammy got serious,” Carolyn says. “He told family he didn’t want toys, just more machines. Every dollar he earned reading books and taking care of animals went to the business.” From there, all that Sammy earned he invested. As a result, Sammy started making enough to buy one machine per month. (Talk about dedication.)
Of course, his mom is thrilled at how motivated her young son is; what mother wouldn’t be beaming with pride? “Even if I had lost money doing this, it’s been amazing seeing how he has shifted the way he looks at himself and the world around him,” Carolyn says. “He’s becoming quite the self-learner and takes pride in having high standards in the way he dresses, acts and how clean his machines are.”
Sammy hopes his business will inspire other kids to get into the business world and to help others too. In fact, he has some advice for budding young entrepreneurs out there:
- “Practice reading and math.”
- “Always dress nicely, have manners [and] have business cards.”
- “Don’t eat all the candy—or you won’t make any money.”
An unusual joy that came from Sammy’s journey—paying taxes. Carolyn recalls, “When he saw his name on an envelope, [he asked], ‘Mom, what’s this?’ ‘It’s for you to pay taxes.’ ‘Taxes? Yes!’”
Interested in Sammy’s business? Check it out here.
Images courtesy of Carolyn Luhn.