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Napa youth walks businessman’s path with new shoe design

What makes an entrepreneur?

Nearly 14% of the U.S. adult population is pursuing early stage entrepreneurial activity.

86% of U.S. entrepreneurial activity is motivated by opportunity.

Approximately one-third of U.S. startup entrepreneurs are non-White-Caucasian ethnicities.

Technology drives entrepreneurship. The rate of total entrepreneurial activity firms that compete within the technology sector with technology as a primary driver of business has grown from 0% in 2010 to 10% in 2017.

Information Technology and Finance make up over 18% of opportunities pursued by U.S. entrepreneurs.

For both men and women entrepreneurs in the United States, the rate of profitability increased dramatically between 2015 and 2016 by more than 25%. However, in 2017 the rate of profitability declined for both men and women although the decline for men was greater, 21% for men vs. 9% for women. This represents a narrowing of the gender gap to less than 5%, suggesting women are performing almost as well as their male counterparts.

36% of U.S. entrepreneurs are developing and delivering an innovative product or service as their base offering.

U.S. entrepreneurs aged 35-44 are the most entrepreneurially active.

20% of U.S. entrepreneurs expected to employ 20 or more people in their new ventures.

Over 50% of adults across the entire spectrum of age groups in the United States perceive opportunity.

7.6% of working-age adults in the United States start a new business for their employers.

30% of U.S. entrepreneurs exit a business to pursue another opportunity.

One-third of Americans state they personally know an entrepreneur.

85% of established business owners in  the United States expected to be profitable in the current year and 76% were employers.

Established business ownership activity levels are highest among those 55-64 in the United States, with substantial activity continuing among those 65-74.

African/African Americans are starting and running new businesses at the rate of 20%.

Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

If you were to ask Carter Waugh, 11, what he wants to be when he grows up, he would tell you: “businessman,” and that he’s already on that path.

Three years ago this month, the young lad grew disgruntled with his flip-flops, breaking 10 pairs before deciding to develop his own brand of shoes. He wanted shoes that easily slipped on and off and were sturdy with a toe bar to keep up with his active lifestyle. To some, the product resembles Crocs, a popular gardening shoe.

“(But) there’s nothing like it,” said the Napa youngster.

The Flip Critts operation was born, with its name taken as a derivative of his nickname “Critt,” which is short for “Critter.”

“I just want to go,” said the youngest Waugh of the winery family in Napa. While coining the word “adventurability,” Carter plays lacrosse, shoots hoops, skateboards, gardens, cooks, rides a bike and climbs trees — just like most young boys.

But Carter isn’t just any boy.

He has joined about 27 million Americans who are starting or running new businesses, according to a U.S. report released last year that was provided by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. No data was given on entrepreneurs under age 18, showing just how rare it is.

Carter’s story is like others in the North Bay, those who started their own businesses early in life.

The student at Willow Elementary School developed a business plan, patented his invention, brought on an intellectual property lawyer and formed a limited liability company (LLC) under a 50-page operating agreement. He’s also hired a manufacturing consultant, cleared out a space in the family garage for shipping product, visited a proposed mass-production factory in China twice and cranked out prototypes from a Los Angeles facility that spawned 204 options of styles, colors and sizes.

Flip Critts boasts a mailing list of more than 16,000 names of potential customers. Carter has also gained almost 600 supporters who have pledged more than $40,000 to buy them from his 40-day Kickstarter promotion. The test market campaign that started on June 9 has quadrupled its goal. The shoes cost $65 for adults, $55 for kids.

The active, young business leader also wants to inspire other kids to fulfill their dreams, and he plans to coach them on how to go about that with his upcoming online forum called Critts Cares.

He’s pledged to donate $2 from each pair to artful learning programs, starting with his own Napa school where he’s led assemblies describing his business venture.

His reasoning for lending his school a hand is simple.

“They’ll need help going through this virus,” Carter said, referring to the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus outbreak has created havoc around the world, but at the same time, it has given the family more time to focus on launching the shoe business as the Waugh Family Winery was shut down.

“The shelter in place has given us more time home to prepare for this. It’s been an exciting journey,” Crystal Waugh said. “This is one of the coolest things we could do together as a family. I don’t think any of us had the idea that we’d get to this point by now. I’m definitely proud of him.”

The Waughs, who have operated a winery for 20 years, invested in their son’s venture early on — financially and emotionally. Carter considers his parents an inspiration.

“It’s something we decided to do as parents. What were we going to do with our time, resources and money?” Ryan Waugh said, reflecting back to when his son presented the idea to him. Waugh, an entrepreneur himself, understood his son’s driven will and wanted to support it.

“Most schools seem to lack the entrepreneur spirit. But we taught our kids that life is about choices, and we invested in (Carter’s) ideas with those ideals,” he said. Carter’s 14-year-old brother Jordan helps his sibling when he can.

“It’s quite the exercise in entrepreneurship. How it has taken hold has surprised us though,” Ryan Waugh said.

Carter’s fourth grade teacher isn’t surprised about the young business protégé coming up with a great idea.

“Kids come up with ideas all the time for the purpose of play. It’s rare (a kid) gets into research and development and hiring a legal consultant. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Amanda Lemaster said. “He passed out business cards on the first day of class. It’s kind of mind blowing how much care and thought went into this.”

Carter has since left Lemaster’s class, but his risk-taking personality and ambitious gumption have etched a place in the veteran teacher’s memory.

“It’s been neat to see him grow up. He’s an idea guy — a little inventor,” she said, adding that he brought shoes into class for his fellow students to try on.

What makes an entrepreneur?

Nearly 14% of the U.S. adult population is pursuing early stage entrepreneurial activity.

86% of U.S. entrepreneurial activity is motivated by opportunity.

Approximately one-third of U.S. startup entrepreneurs are non-White-Caucasian ethnicities.

Technology drives entrepreneurship. The rate of total entrepreneurial activity firms that compete within the technology sector with technology as a primary driver of business has grown from 0% in 2010 to 10% in 2017.

Information Technology and Finance make up over 18% of opportunities pursued by U.S. entrepreneurs.

For both men and women entrepreneurs in the United States, the rate of profitability increased dramatically between 2015 and 2016 by more than 25%. However, in 2017 the rate of profitability declined for both men and women although the decline for men was greater, 21% for men vs. 9% for women. This represents a narrowing of the gender gap to less than 5%, suggesting women are performing almost as well as their male counterparts.

36% of U.S. entrepreneurs are developing and delivering an innovative product or service as their base offering.

U.S. entrepreneurs aged 35-44 are the most entrepreneurially active.

20% of U.S. entrepreneurs expected to employ 20 or more people in their new ventures.

Over 50% of adults across the entire spectrum of age groups in the United States perceive opportunity.

7.6% of working-age adults in the United States start a new business for their employers.

30% of U.S. entrepreneurs exit a business to pursue another opportunity.

One-third of Americans state they personally know an entrepreneur.

85% of established business owners in  the United States expected to be profitable in the current year and 76% were employers.

Established business ownership activity levels are highest among those 55-64 in the United States, with substantial activity continuing among those 65-74.

African/African Americans are starting and running new businesses at the rate of 20%.

Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

Lemaster recalled the times Carter would speak up in math class to say: “I don’t get it. I don’t learn that way.”

This reaction is unheard of at this age, she emphasized.

“Usually, parents would say something like that about their kids. To learn how an assembly works and the concept of profit and loss — they would scare most adults off,” she quipped.

Lemaster, who’s taught for six years, attributes much of Carter’s success and bravery to a heightened self-confidence. Still, he remains likable to his classmates, who “completely support him,” she said.

Mindful traits among young entrepreneurs

“Some individuals at a very young age have a genius tendency,” said Kathryn Lopez, a Sonoma Family Therapy associate. “It’s a rarity and a stand-out gene.”

Lopez pointed to Mozart as a child, who composed many time-tested piano compositions.

The family therapist believes child entrepreneurs breed a modeling characteristic that helps them keep the momentum of their ideas going through support of the family structure and especially the parents.

“Some parents encourage those (genius) values to get deep and get creative,” she said. “If the parents weren’t in the picture, it’s hard to know what the opportunities would be.”

It also helps for young entrepreneurs to have the space and venue to create and be with their thoughts. From there, having the temperament to be self-assured helps create the idea and turn it into reality, she noted.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all with the genius component. Even with the genius gene, the deal breaker is the family support there on the front lines to keep the ball in the air,” she said.

Another Global Entrepreneurship Monitor finding: one-third of the entrepreneur start-ups were initiated by non-whites, many who were influenced by the need to counter a perceived lack of opportunity on the job front. The study proves the public sees being an entrepreneur as “a viable career choice.”

Political is the personal

Ozzy Jimenez has double-downed on his proud Hispanic heritage and sexual orientation to point out his ambition to better himself and his community.

The founder of the Noble Folk café began his quest to ignore the job market 11 years ago at age 22.

On the first date with his now life and business partner, Christian Sullberg, Jimenez was asked what “I wanted to do with my life.” Hence, the unique cross between a coffeehouse, café and pastry shop was formed out of Healdsburg.

Like Carter, Jimenez’s father shared the entrepreneur spirit in his carpet cleaning operation.

The millennial soon learned that he “needed to survive” and make it “on my own,” he explained.

“Once I saw the (2009 economic) crash, I knew the system isn’t working on behalf of (millennials),” he said.

The stage was set for the duo to start a business together that has thrived and expanded into four Sonoma County locations.

“Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely life. Fortunately for me, I have people around me who support me,” Jimenez said. “People want to support a business with ethos.”

That ethos translates into the altruistic nature of wanting to give back to a community who supports you.

That’s why he stepped in July 7 to fill the Healdsburg City Council seat vacated by former Mayor Leah Gold. She resigned due to a public outcry that she failed to help improve racial relations through the police department.

“I have ties here. I love my city and genuinely care about it,” Jimenez said.

Key to making it big

Chris Stewart is quite familiar with the long, rewarding path to successful entrepreneurship.

Like Carter, the 60-year-old founder and chief operating officer of Pocket Radar Inc. in Santa Rosa started his quest about 40 years ago to create and run his own business at a very young age.

“I started inventing at 10 years old,” he told the Business Journal. “When all the other kids were reading comic books, I was reading the biography of Thomas Edison.”

He followed Edison’s pursuits, along with other great inventors such as Tesla — as in Nikola, the inventor — not the car or its maker Elon Musk. The Serbian-American engineer’s inventions were traced to the AC power system, refrigeration motors and even having a hand in remote control technology.

“Tesla made more of an impact,” he said.

Stewart grew up in a rural Appalachian area where he quickly ruled out any desire to work in the coalmines.

“I always had a plan. I knew that guys who started their own companies could control their own destinies,” he said.

Between his studies in a vocational electronics program and attendance at Ohio State, Stewart pieced together a path that led to pocket size radar guns that pitchers use to gauge the speed of their throws, among other products. During the coronavirus crisis, “many minor league pitchers have called because they feel the need to keep up with their training” regimens.

The self-made design engineer cites luck, drive and creativity as crucial factors to his success. This means to make it has led him to Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies before opening Invention Planet LLC and Pocket Radar. He also works as a volunteer faculty member at Sonoma State where he lectures in courses on electrical engineering and business as a Small Business Entrepreneur in Residence in the university’s hub for enterprise thinking.

His ambition serves as his greatest asset, he insists.

“A lot of people have ideas then sit on the couch and play video games. I’ve tried to build a long-term vision,” Stewart said. “Anyone with the right gumption will make it happen.”

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