They have numbers to crunch, products to develop and plans to pitch. But first, they have homework to do. These Newport County teens are making their mark and using their smarts to follow their dreams and start unique businesses.
Sandbar Speakers, Wicked Fun Balloons and Aquidneck Fabrication are the latest — and dare we say, greatest — startup companies to hit the island, and each of them is run by an executive team whose members have yet to start college.
Established by varying inspirations, from a need for loud music to giving back to the community, these young entrepreneurs demonstrate a knack for innovation and a strong motivation. If they continue on their respective paths, these teens certainly have a bright future.
No. of employees: 5
Year founded: 2018
Product or service: High-tech speakers with style
Inspiration: Repairing old speakers
Future goals: Building the business and developing new, better versions of the speaker
Patrick Flanigan, 17, a senior at Portsmouth Abbey, borrowed his roommate’s JBL speaker for a hockey game last season so he could blast music on the team bus. Except the borrowed speaker blew out. Flanigan told his friend that he would try and fix it. He’d always been interested in tinkering with things. If he failed, he promised to buy his friend a new speaker.
eakers are marketed as high quality speakers like JBL but with a unique look. The plywood case is what catches the eye of their customers. Eventually, the team hopes to start selling the speakers on the web and expand the company.
“The problem isn’t the sales, the problem is keeping up with making them,” Flanigan said. “More than anything, I place the value on the excitement. It’s excitement in the team, friends, everyone who sees them.”
WICKED FUN BALLOONS
No. of employees: 1
Year founded: 2018
Product or service: Balloon animals for events
Inspiration: Giving to back to the community
Future goals: More charity events
Evin St. Laurent, 16, isn’t in it for the cash, although, it’s certainly an added bonus. A junior at Portsmouth High School, he’s more interested in supporting charities with his balloon animal making entertainment service. “I want to stay local but introduce the art to more people, and help with more charity events,” St. Laurent said.
He was first inspired by another vendor at a street fair who was creating balloon animals. Without any prior experience, he set to work perfecting the art and building his business.
“My mom was really skeptical at first until we got the supplies and I started practicing,” he said. Once Stephanie St. Laurent saw her son’s knack for the art and his motivation, she was on board.
The name of the business, Wicked Fun Balloons, is a play off of a family friends’ business, Wicked Awesome Mugs. “Wicked is a local term,” St. Laurent said, so he thought it would resonate with people around here.
Over the past two months it has. He has created balloon dogs, hearts and other assorted shapes for people at the Broadway Street Fair, charity events with Stop & Shop, and at a benefit for St. Jude Children’s Hospital at The Liberal Club in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Are balloon animals St. Laurent’s future? Perhaps part of it, but he’s more concerned with giving back to his community. “I’ve always been interested in money, saving money, the market and (how) government works,” said St. Laurent, “I think I’d like to go into law or politics.”
St. Laurent is available for charity events, street fairs and childrens’ birthday parties for all of your balloon art needs. Email him at email@example.com.
No. of employees: 2
Year founded: 2018
Product or service: 3D-printing services
Inspiration: Prior knowledge and innovation
Future goals: Take on more clients and grow the business
It was a match made in heaven for two entrepreneurial-minded engineers. Keydell Fuller, a 17-year-old senior at Middletown High School, wanted to start a 3D-printing business with his friends and was motivated to get it started. But they weren’t as interested as he was.
He went to FABNewport one day to get his 3D-printer fixed. That’s when he met one of the employees, Ben Jarvis, 18, a senior at East Bay Met School from Middletown. That’s also when he found his business partner. Over the past four months, they’ve developed a friendship and successful business to boot.
The printers function according to plans that get programmed by the user. The user inputs the plans and the printer distributes layers of melted solid material, and allows it to dry before printing the next layer on top. It’s the technology of the future, and Fuller and Jarvis are hoping to capitalize on that.
“I like the creative aspect of it most,” said Jarvis as the printer whizzed back and forth reading the designs he just programmed in Fuller’s garage, which serves as the company workshop.
The pair have three 3D-printers which sit under spools of different colored plastic. Their motto — “You imagine, we create” — says it all. They can create virtually anything, but they mainly make items like business card holders, key-chains, cupholders, phone cases and more.
They are looking to market their services to local businesses. “We’ll take the logo and make them into promotional items,” said Fuller, adding that Aquidneck Fabrication is cheaper and quicker than going with a business that has intermediary costs and other molding techniques.
The two have their sights set on college next year. As far as the business goes, they plan to acquire more printers to utilize different materials like carbon fiber and metal.
Source: Newport RI