In our Homework series, we explore the lives of ordinary kids with not-so-ordinary hobbies. Between school work and swimming lessons, these youngsters are also running successful businesses—(sometimes) with a bit of grown-up help.
Ryan Gill spends his days like any 11-year-old—catching pop flys, building Lego sets, and studying for social studies tests. But between school and fun, Ryan and his brothers—Austin, 8, and Collin, 13—also make and sell candles. Their business, Frères Branchiaux, sprung from a plea to their parents to buy Nerf blasters and video games. But Mom and Dad didn’t just hand over the cash. Rather, they said, “Get a job—or start a business.”
With the help of family, the boys create and post the products online—which have now expanded to room sprays and soaps—themselves. The success of the business has not only allowed the boys to buy their own toys—it’s also taught them valuable life skills, like public speaking and empathy (they donate some of that toy money to the homeless). And Mom has even baked the business into their homeschool lesson plans.
Here, Ryan talks about his experiences as a young founder and fragrance master.
Name: Ryan Gill
My business: Frères Branchiaux
Where I live: Washington, DC, USA
What I do for fun:
I like Legos, Nerf guns, riding bikes, and baseball. I play on a travel team and I play outfield.
What my brothers and I are really good at:
My brother Austin is really good at making little movie scenes. Collin’s really good at football, and he’s really good at playing a lot of games. I’m really good at building Legos from scratch without instructions and playing baseball and doing math in my head.
Something I’m proud of:
Getting an A on my social studies test. But my favorite subject is math.
What inspires me:
Being able to help the homeless.
Why it’s important that we donate part of our profits to a homeless shelter:
Because I had family members who are homeless, and we took them in and helped them get back on their feet.
What I want to be when I grow up:
I want to be an engineer and a baseball player.
How my brothers and I run our business:
Austin wicks the candles. Collin wicks and makes the candles and makes the room sprays. I wick and make the candles, and I make the soap. I’m really good at making fragrances. I usually smell two things, and then I put them together and see what they smell like.
What it was like starting a business when I was 8:
I was kind of nervous. And I wasn’t really ready to talk to people that I didn’t know that well. But I feel confident now. When people come to our booth, I say, “Hello, would you like to smell a candle?” And once they come over, I tell them about my company.
When people say that I’m very young to be running a business:
I usually smile and laugh.
The person who helps us the most:
Mom. And Dad helps us, too. The most help that they give us is when they manage the website and help us make the candles and do the stuff that we can’t do. Mom helps us manage our schedule.
What my friends think about my business:
They don’t ask questions, but they just think it’s really cool. And one of my friends has his own company.
The best part of running my own business:
My favorite part is when I’m able to buy my own toys. I just bought Marvel Legos—my favorite superhero is between Black Panther and Captain America. Also, I’m able to work with my brothers.Illustrations by João Fazenda
Photograph by Chanel Jaali Marshall