TIGER Tale Recap: May I See Your ID: Trials & Triumphs of Entrepreneurs Under 21
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr. Seuss
Two teenage central Ohio business owners took Dr. Seuss’s wise advice to heart, and they proved you are never too young to achieve your dreams.
Brooke Yoakam of Upper Arlington, now 17, and Aaron Westbrook of New Albany, now 20, are not just Generation Z’s — they are young entrepreneurs who have founded and are growing their own businesses.
Before they were old enough to vote, drive a car, or get a job, they felt called to make a difference. On August 9—at half the age of most adults but with twice the energy—these motivated young professionals shared their stories at Innovate New Albany’s TIGER Tale presentation, “Can I See Your ID: Trials & Triumphs of Entrepreneurs Under 21.”
A senior at Arlington High School, Brooke founded GiftPocket at the young age of 12. As a pre-teen who received gift cards as gifts, she often forgot to take them with her when she went shopping, lost track of their balances, and ultimately didn’t use them all. After identifying this problem, she knew there must be others who were having the same frustration.
So she did some research. She learned that of the 41.7 million people age 10-29 in the U.S., 78 percent are interested in gift cards on their mobile devices, and 87 percent would trade two to three gift cards they currently have. From there, the idea of GiftPocket was born.
GiftPocket is a gift card shopping app that allows users to store their gift cards on their phone, keep them organized, purchase merchandise, or buy gift cards with “GP points” or credit cards. Unique to her app is the “Exchange” feature, where users can trade gift cards they don’t want for gift cards to places they love to shop.
Brooke developed her idea while attending Young Entrepreneurs Academy, where she won funding for the “best business idea.” After finalizing her business plan and participating in Rev1 Ventures’ Concept Academy, she became a client with Rev1 Ventures.
Her road to success was not easy or fast. With no design experience, she taught herself to use wire frame applications to jumpstart the development process and save money. She conducted market research, investigated competitors, recruited developers, and targeted her product to the teenage market. It took four and a half years, but in April 2019, GiftPocket was launched in the Apple App Store.
Brooke said being a teenage entrepreneur is both a blessing and a curse. While most adults are excited to help and support her, some have not taken her seriously. At only 17, she can’t vote on her own board, so she has to have a board member vote on her behalf.
Aaron, a graduate of New Albany High School, a current sophomore at The Ohio State University and founder of Form5 Prosthetics, used a 3D printer to print his own prosthetic arm at the age of 14.
Born without his right hand, Aaron was raised by encouraging, supportive parents who wouldn’t let him use the word “can’t.” He lived the majority of his life without a prosthetic and could do everything anyone with two hands could do; it just got done differently and a little slower. After discovering a community of other people with limb-loss, he knew he wanted to be a pillar of that group and make a difference.
He started by developing an “Alive with Five” blog where he shared personal and funny stories about living a life with one hand. He spent time researching technology and prosthetics at Shriner’s Hospital in Kentucky and tried his first prosthetic arm. It costs up to $50,000 for a prosthetic arm, an expense not many people can afford.
When he was a high school sophomore, Aaron learned about the prosthetics and 3D printing research being done at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Around the same time, New Albany-Plain Local Schools got a grant for a M.I.T. fabrication lab, and he was one of the first students to conduct an independent project—3D printing his own arm.
He then founded Form5 Prosthetics, a 501 (c) 3 organization providing three different types of lightweight, eco-friendly mechanical prosthetics that are wrist powered, elbow powered or task-specific devices. He uses plastic waste sourced locally from the community to make the prosthetics, and provides them free of charge. He even customizes the prosthetics with colors and unique designs.
Form5 Prosthetics will be hosting “CO-FAB” in November, which is a workshop that pairs those with limb-loss with aspiring engineers to design their own ideas for prosthetics, while learning design engineering, science, and technology.
Both Aaron and Brook need human capital and investors to keep their dreams a reality. If you’d like to support them or want to learn more, you can visit Form5 Prosthetics’ website or GiftPocket’s website.
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