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Riding to Riches

Carson Kropfl wanted a locker-size skateboard, so he made one. COURTESY KROPFL FAMILY

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records and hundreds of other companies, paid Carson Kropfl $65,000 for a 20% stake in his company. Why is this remarkable? Carson was 11.

More kids than ever want to start their own business. If you’re one of them, you can learn from Carson and his experience.

MAN WITH A PLAN Carson poses with a Locker Board. He grew this product from an idea into a thriving business.


Solving a Problem

Carson came up with his idea because no company sold what he wanted. “Everything else fit into my locker—my books, my bag, my lunch—but not my skateboard,” he says. So in 2013, Carson broke the nose and tail off a full-size skateboard to make a locker-size board. Soon his friends were asking for them too.

At the time, Carson was saving for surfing lessons. His mom, Carrie, told him he had to raise the money himself. He sold the boards at school for $20 each. He saved $1,000 for lessons.

After hitting his goal, Carson realized he liked running a business. He didn’t want to stop. “I knew I had something special,” he says.

To grow his business, Carson needed start-up capital. Again, his parents said he had to find a way to get it himself. Carson talked to the company Vans to see if he could get some of their used skateboards for free. Vans set up a recycling program for him. They started giving him 50 used boards per month.

Today, Carson works with manufacturer PS Stix. He buys their unwanted boards at a discount. The boards are cut to the perfect length. Imperfections are buffed out. “Sometimes, you can still see the old graphic behind the new graphic,” he says, “but that’s what makes my boards unique.”

DECIDING MOMENT Carson and his mom, Carrie, make their pitch to the sharks.


Persistence Pays

Carson first applied for Shark Tank in 2013. The producers turned him down. But he was persistent. He checked in with them again every six months. In 2017, they finally said yes.

At the shoot, Carson made his pitch, with his mom’s help. He was ready for the Sharks’ questions about his product and sales. Sir Richard Branson wanted to invest. Carson says, “I just thought, ‘Wow. Now I work with Sir Richard Branson. This feels good.’”

Since then, Carson has sold more than a thousand boards. His company has grown more than 300%. He plans to expand to other countries. He thanks mentors mentor RAWPIXEL/GETTY IMAGES someone who shares knowledge in order to help another person achieve his or her goals (noun) Yusef and his mentor worked on skills for building friendships. such as Branson and Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, who works at Nike. He also thanks his mom, who has her own title at Locker Board: Chief Mom Officer. She runs day-to-day operations while Carson is in school.

His advice to other kids who want to start their own business? Ask for help when you need it. “The best part about being a kid entrepreneur is you don’t know everything,” he says. “It’s easy to ask people for advice. The worst thing they can say is no.”

MEGA MENTOR Sir Richard Branson’s investment and mentorship help Carson succeed.


Family Challenge

Locker Boards were created because Carson had a problem. Identify a problem in your life. Can you come up with a solution? How could you turn your idea into a business?

—By Kathryn Tuggle

Click here for the Grade 4 Teacher’s Guide.

Click here for the Grade 4 Paired Text.