Flubberr -- it's hard to define but fun to play with. A cross between Silly Putty and clay, the malleable polymer-based blob comes in five colors and scents, including blueberry and cherry. It's the sort of thing any kid would love. But then, it was developed and distributed by kids.
For 13-year-old Alex Milewski and his 14-year-old brother Jacob, founders of Flubberr Brothers, the product is more than just a concoction based on an online recipe they modified. It's also their portal into the world of entrepreneurship and the chance to develop some real-life business skills.
In 1997, the Milewski family received a flyer about the nearby Young Americans Center for Financial Education's annual Young Entrepreneur Marketplace for business owners under 22. Deciding to participate, the boys went into business with a two-product selection: homemade fleece hats and their flagship putty product, which has since become a local sellout every year since its introduction.
But while Flubberr Brothers and Beyond has netted the boys a few hundred dollars a year as well as a chance to win in the Young American Education Foundation's Celebration for Young Entrepreneurs, there have been other less tangible but more important benefits.
"It's a great way to have real life experience with math, organization, and planning skills," says Leslie, the boys' mother. "The experience has opened doors that would not have been opened for them, and they feel they have quite a significant power over their lives with the ability to make decisions."
Experts agree that entrepreneurial activities can be a great experience for kids. In researching her book See Jane Win (Running Press, 2001), child psychologist and author Sylvia Rimm found that most women who were successful executives as adults felt that success was due in some part to entrepreneurial pursuits they had as children.
It's probably just as important for youth to be educated in entrepreneurship as any other course of study, says Steve Mariotti, president of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (www.nfte.com). "Learning about running a business inspires innovative thinking and has far-reaching effects on their lives," he adds.