From Geckos to GravyStack: Inside My First Business

Nov 01, 2022
The Guardians

What gives an 8 year old kid the confidence to start his own business and subcontract other 3rd graders to work for him?

Even more important: what gives him the resilience to bounce back when that business goes under, and turn defeat into the kind of drive that makes him become a serial startup founder?

There’s an ongoing debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. In my case, it’s a little bit of both.

Entrepreneurship is in my blood

I’m proud to come from four generations of self-made entrepreneurs. My grandfather was Ronald Reagan’s main banking advisor. He ended up building the top small business bank in the U.S.

I grew up watching my father and grandfather build this huge company. I saw their grit. I saw their biggest struggles. Most importantly, I got to experience their passion.

When it came time to cash out, the business sold for nearly $1 billion. They lived the dream of many entrepreneurs: to build something with a significant impact, then exit when the time is right.

It didn’t surprise anyone in our family when my father and grandfather put almost all of what they earned into a charitable trust, keeping only a small fraction to live on.

At heart, we’re a frugal Dutch family. The entrepreneurs in my family chose not to pass down money from generation to generation, but to instead pass down knowledge and training.

I was taught to be frugal and always appreciate what I have. And I learned early on that creating is more important than earning. Because of that, I caught the entrepreneurial spirit quickly.

I started my first business in the third grade…

I was 8 years old and eager to start making my own money, so I began by making beaded gecko keychains. These glow-in-the-dark keychains cost me about 20 cents to make.

Going door to door, I sold hundreds of them for $1.50 apiece. A whopping profit of $1.30 per gecko!

Word spread around town about my growing enterprise, and before long I found myself with a large “staff” of classmates – fellow 8-year-olds whom I paid a quarter each to make the geckos for me.

Doing the sales myself, I still made a profit of $1.05 per gecko. Life was great, and business was booming.

This lasted about a month, until…

I was suspended.

The principal of the school explained that the kids in my class had stopped going to lunch and recess because they were all too busy making beaded geckos for me.

In a single day, I had gotten suspended and lost all of my employees. I was crushed.

When my dad picked me up from school and learned what happened, I was shocked. Instead of punishing me, he gave me a high-five and took me out to a nice dinner.

Dad looked me in the eyes and said, “Keep going. You will be way more successful doing whatever you just got suspended for. Don’t ever, ever let anyone stop you from being the man you were born to be.”

And I never would let anyone stop me again.

I learned again when I started my own family: kids can do amazing things when given the chance.

I grew up to become a serial entrepreneur, creating businesses that help people – just like my ancestors. And although I might have been born for it, this was also the natural result of the lessons I learned early on.

I was taught financial independence, and that you never really get anything for free.

I was taught that it’s never too early to make and manage money.

I was taught that money is not an end in itself, but rather a tool you create with–and that is the fun part. .

Watching my father and grandfather created a sense of exploration and grit around finances. That led me to be financially responsible and independent very early on.

Trust and gentle guidance go a long way.

I started GravyStack with the same values in mind.

GravyStack helps kids learn how to earn their own money by creating value for others. We understand that not everyone comes from a family that knows how to manage money, so we’re here to help both children and parents achieve financial literacy.

Through a fun-first gamified platform, we teach kids how to make their own informed financial decisions and be the master of their future wealth.

By giving them the knowledge and capabilities they need, GravyStack sets kids up to develop into independent, financially-savvy adults–all while having fun in the process.

Signing up for GravyStack means giving your child the opportunity to build a healthy relationship around money, just like my entrepreneurial family did with their examples and lessons.

Our goal is for every child to grow up feeling confident about making financial choices, instead of being intimidated or fearful. Because as my father once said to me very long ago, teaching your child financial independence means giving them the room to step into who they are truly meant to be.

If you’d like to learn more about how GravyStack is reinventing how kids and teens learn about money, join our movement at

Get started with GravyStack today.

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