When 11-year-old Iain Martin attended JA BizTown summer camp for the first time last year, he brought a unique perspective. Since the age of eight, Iain has had his own real-life part-time business recycling wooden pallets.
Now 12, Iain is a sixth-grader at Valley View Middle School in Edina. He says he has always been interested in the idea of business, which led to his participation in JA BizTown.
JA BizTown serves as a sort of “fantasy camp” for youngsters who want a taste of the business world in a fun, relaxed setting. As part of the camp, students apply for jobs with various businesses, and then proceed to run those operations, complete with meeting payroll, paying for employee health insurance, and selling goods and services.
“I did the extreme [camp] for a week,” Iain says. “It was a lot of fun to be around like-minded people who had the same interests as I do.” Iain has since returned to JA BizTown, once as a volunteer to help younger students, and again with his school.
“[JA BizTown is] a lot of fun and you can learn how to manage your money, and if you have a business, how to manage the business’ money,” Iain says. “You learn how to try and keep everything in balance without having one part derail.”
Iain’s passion for entrepreneurship got its start years ago when he asked his parents and grandfather, Jerry Olson, what he could do to earn money. He wanted more than an allowance; he wanted a business. Although business opportunities for 8-year-olds are thin, his grandpa Olson, who worked for a pallet company, suggested that Iain could make a few dollars by selling the wood pallets that had been used to deliver landscape mulch to his home. Soon Iain was picking up pallets from local businesses, which in some instances would have gone to the landfill.
That began what has now become a regular job for Iain. At first, he would help load pallets into the back of his grandpa’s pickup. When the number of pallets grew too large for the pickup, Iain bought a small trailer. When that grew too small, an agreement was made with the company that buys his pallets to lend Iain a semi-trailer. The semi-trailer holds between 400 and 500 pallets, making each full unit worth nearly $1,000.
“It’s time-consuming but it’s well worth it. And it’s fun,” Iain says about his venture, which has allowed him both to start a serious college fund and to indulge in his favorite hobby, collecting replica farm toys.
For the future, Iain plans to continue his recycling business and hopes someday to translate that experience into starting even more companies.
“[At JA BizTown] we learned about managing a business and keeping yourself afloat without losing money, which is a pretty important lesson,” Iain explains. “That’s towards the top of the list.”