10 Questions with Jason O'Neill
Jason O'Neill's Picture

Age: 11
Business: Pencil Bugs
Product or Service: Decorated Pencils
Location: Temecula, CA
Website: www.pencilbugs.com

Jason was 10 years old when he started his business. He was searching for an idea for a product that he could sell at a local craft fair and started thinking about ways to make homework a little more fun. That’s how his idea for Pencil Bugs was born. Each pencil bug comes on the top of a #2 pencil with a Certificate of Authenticity which includes their name, the date they were born, care and training instructions. They know three tricks: sit, stand and stay.
Jason is now 11 and in the 5th grade. He never imagined that his idea would turn into a real business and he says it is never too early to be an entrepreneur. Now Jason sells his pencil bugs online and at stores like Wal-mart and Albertsons. His business has caught lots of media attention and Jason has appeared on TV shows such as ABC News Nightline and he’s participated in many speaking engagements for schools and charities. Jason is working on a prototype for a board game and a video game….and he’s hoping to have a TV show based on the pencil bug concept some day.
Jason has won a “Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award – 2007.” He also donates to foster kids in his hometown.

Q: When did you start your business?

Jason: Right before I was 10 years old I wanted to help my mom out with a craft fair she was participating in, but she said I had to do my own thing. So after many trials and errors I came up with a little bug on top of a pencil. I sold out so I thought if they could be successful at a craft fair why not start selling them at school. They sold great there so I thought, well why can’t I do this as a full business? So that’s how I’m here now.

Q: Why did you choose pencils as the basis of your creation?

Jason: I was looking for something that I could help out other kids be excited about doing homework since I love school, homework is fun for me. So I thought if I could make something on top of a pencil and use it in class, that it would maybe motivate kids to work harder and have fun.

Q: What was the hardest thing you encountered while starting your business?

Jason: A lot of kids at school were jealous and they were teasing me and laughing at me about my business. But at the time I just came back with the response of, ‘I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.’

Q: What kept you going when there were challenges?

Jason: What kept me going is knowing that I am helping out other kids because I donate to a foster family agency in Temecula. I donate a portion of my profits to them. So I know that I am helping out other kids and making them happy.

Q: Did you get help or advice from other people?

Jason: Yes. I think it is really important because no one is perfect. Even the best person out there still needs help from somebody, so I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t accept help. Not that you have to use it, but you should always listen to advice.

Q: How did you finance your start-up business?

Jason: I actually used some of my own money to start it up. And luckily the first craft fair I did sold out and I had enough profit to continue. I’ve been putting my profits back into the business so when I sell I can make more from the profits of each pencil bug.

Q: What do you like most about running a business?

Jason: I love the learning experience. It gives me more knowledge besides what they teach you in school. I am learning good life lessons.

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned through your experience as an entrepreneur?

Jason: I’ve learned how to deal with people. Like how to read people on the sales floor. People have very different personalities and getting to know the general public helps communicating with other people like friends and grownups

Q: What would your advice be to other kids thinking of starting businesses?

Jason: Know your finances and how to manage your money and how much it costs for supplies. You have to understand the money part of it.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience as an entrepreneur?

Jason: I’d like to tell kids to stick to it even if you want to quit. Because the more you stick to it, the more you can learn from it, even if you aren’t making as much money as you’re expecting.