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At an age when many of her peers spent their weekends working at the mall, watching TV or playing video games, Eva Baker launched Teens Got Cents, a blog that teaches teens how to manage their money. It started as a high school project, but Baker, now 21, grew it into a business and also launched The Teenpreneur, an annual conference for teens who want to start or grow their own business.
We caught up with Baker to find out why she thinks teens should embrace entrepreneurship, how she’s built a community of mini moguls and more. The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
StartupNation: How did you get interested in entrepreneurship?
Eva Baker: I was home-schooled all the way through high school. For my junior and senior years, I was required to complete a high school project. I got to choose what the project was.
Around that time, my mom and dad were going through a divorce, and my mom was just trying to get back on her feet financially. She kept hearing about Dave Ramsey. She went to a library to borrow his book, but they only had it on audiotape. I got stuck listening to it with her in the car.
I’ve been doing simple budgeting systems since I was five and they involved us in the family finances. When I was listening to the book, I realized that it’s really not the norm. There were lots of kids who were just getting dropped off at college and did not know how to budget.
I started doing some research online, and there really wasn’t a lot out there for teens or kids. There was specifically nothing for teens by another teen. That was my light-bulb moment — I paid $75 for a WordPress theme and had a friend help me put my website together. As I continued to work on it, I realized that it’s what I’m passionate about. After two years of working on the blog, I realized that it could be a business.
How did you monetize your blog?
Baker: On Teens Got Cents, I’ve worked with several companies and organizations as a brand ambassador or consultant for them.
There’s a credit union here in Jacksonville [Florida], and I’ve been partnering with them for about four years now. I am an ambassador to their teen members, I provide content to their blogs, I go speak at events for them, I’ve been on TV for them and I helped them develop a community with their teen members.
I have helped put together an internship team for another organization. Some girls are providing written work, and I manage them and edit their work.
So how did all this lead to the Teenpreneur?
Baker: My first year running Teens Got Cents, we stumbled across a conference called FinCon for personal finance bloggers. I was seventeen and super nervous about going, but when I got there, I met an incredibly welcoming and inclusive community of people who took me under their wing.
I have to attribute a lot of success I’ve had with Teens Got Cents to these people — they’ve had my back and have educated me on how to successfully run a website. In 2014, I was sitting at FinCon looking across the room at all of these amazing people. I was the youngest person there, and I had a desire for that kind of connection with people my own age.
All of my friends are doing completely different things than I am, so it is very easy to feel alone. I started forming the idea to host a conference of some kind. Teens from all over the country were running really cool businesses. I just started calling them up and saying, “Hey, would you be interested in attending an event, just for kids like us?” I got a really positive response.
We had the first conference last year, and it was incredibly successful — we had more than one hundred attendees. It provided practical skills, like how to build a website and how to use social media to further your business. Plus, we had a community that was supporting each other, helping each other out, cheering each other on and just building a bond with each other. Both years that we had a conference, we had a great group of teams that have continued to build relationships throughout the year.
StartupNation: What you think older entrepreneurs can learn from teens or vice versa?
Baker: I think that teens can do anything that adults can do, with the right support. But I think that teens have an immediate advantage because their risk is lower. They don’t have bills, or house payments, or car payments or children that they have to take care of. They can jump off the cliff with a lot less fear and less risk of failure. If they do fail, they’re not going to lose their house.
I absolutely think it is the perfect time for teens to jump into something like this, because if you can learn and make all your mistakes now, it’s really going to be beneficial for you later on. You are going to make mistakes, but the consequences for that are going to be pretty low.
StartupNation: What are your goals for the future? Are you planning on growing Teens Got Cents and the Teenpreneur even more?
Baker: Yes. For Teens Got Cents, I just want to continue doing it. I’m 21 now, so I’m not technically a teen, but I have a team of six teenage writers who provide content, so I’m hoping to continue to manage them and grow it as much as I possibly can. I hope to continue working with different clients on helping them develop plans and strategies for their companies to reach teens. I really enjoy doing that. I want to grow that side of my business. For Teenprenuer, I want to help spread this community to everyone who wants to be a part of it.