Sixteen-year-old startup founder Connor Cameron says he’s had an entrepreneurial streak since his first year of high-school, selling soft drinks out of his locker at lunchtime to friends for a dollar a pop.
“Then when I was 15 I started a clothing brand, which I built up for a while. It was really great experience but I wanted to move onto something else, solve a real problem,” Cameron tells StartupSmart.
Proving you’re never too young for entrepreneurship, Cameron founded student-focused online jobs marketplace Stakk this year. Short for “Students at Work”, Stakk allows people to hire students for various freelance jobs, such as gardening, babysitting, coaching, and tutoring.
The idea for Stakk came to Cameron through his everyday life as a student, seeing how his friends were struggling to find quality work that paid well, while his parents would regularly be on the lookout for extra hands to help around home when Cameron was unavailable. At the same time, he could see a way for people paying for otherwise pricey services to save some money.
“I wanted to help out with productivity and cost for what are relatively simple tasks. Gardeners in Sydney can cost anywhere between $60-70 an hour, but a student would do it for $20-25 an hour, so I thought we could save people some money,” he says.
“There’s also a growing problem I’m trying to solve with the gap between students graduating university and them getting their first job, so I’m trying to provide students with some work experience.”
The founder says he takes a cut of what students on the platform get paid, say $5 out of $25. So far he’s processed over $1500 worth of jobs on the platform, with over 500 users.
The vision for Stakk originally started as an app, but Cameron decided to launch with a website as an easier first step. Instead of teaching himself website coding, the founder says his process was to just “throw myself in and see where I can get to straight away”, doing so by reaching out to freelance web developers and getting the ball rolling.
“I found this freelance web developer I’ve been working closely with, and we got the product up and running and it’s been all uphill from there,” he says.
Young age poses difficulties
While Cameron acknowledges it’s still early days, he hopes running his own business is something he can keep doing into the future. He also still plans to go to university, and while he says the TV show Suits initially lured him to a life as a lawyer, more recently he’s been considering commerce or software engineering.
He’ll keep working on Stakk though, if possible, as he wants the business to get into “as many people’s hands as possible”.
“I’m not making any money off it, and I don’t plan to for a while,” he says, speaking like a true founder.
Cameron’s startup journey hasn’t been without challenges; the founder has run into the predictable yet frustrating problem of people not taking a 16-year-old startup founder seriously.
“They hear ‘high-school founder’ and think that I’m not very serious, or I’m just throwing some ideas around. That’s been the biggest problem,” he says.
“But once I’ve gotten talking to people and convinced them I’m serious, there hasn’t been any real problems.”
Reflecting on his experience and passing on advice to other young founders, Cameron says the best thing you can do is to have a shot, because the worst thing you’ll get out of it is experience.
“I did think for a bit that I was doing this too early, but I figured even if it does fail and I don’t get anything out of it business-wise, I’ve got a support network from my parents and I’m going to come out of it with a profit of experience,” he says.
“Throw yourself into it — there’s no harm in trying. If you lose out and completely fail, you’ll come out of it with more experience than you had before you went in.”