High school student opens own business

Schneider meets others at Inventors group 

by BETH ALTENA

Rockford High School students Caleb Markin and Richard Schneider, president of Covert Eagle USA, are pictured with Ellen Schmucker, who is chief strategy officer for Schneider’s business.

Since he was a youngster hanging out in the stockroom at Nordstrom’s, Richard Schneider was impressed with the men in suits using spreadsheets and tracking the sales of shoes. He knew someday he wanted to be in a suit, calculating the success of business, hopefully his own.

Today, at age 17, the Rockford High School junior has a structured business plan, two interns, a chief strategy office, has consulted with the district’s superintendent, donates a portion of every sale to a charity, and is considering joining the Rockford Chamber of Commerce as president of his own business, Covert Eagle USA.

“I compare what the competition charges and keep my prices lower,” said Schneider of his strategy for selling camouflage tape, his first product until he is able to expand into paintball products and eventually guns and ammunition.

Schneider said it isn’t very easy as a minor to start your own business. “I had to give someone power of attorney,” he explained. He said he didn’t want to use a family member over age of 18 to sign his business paperwork because of liability. “If you use a family member and you default, they have the liability,” he said. “If you use a power of attorney and default, the liability is yours.”

Schneider has no intention of defaulting in any case and, in fact, eagerly looks forward to expanding his business. Selling the camouflage tape at $10.50 a roll, he plans on saving any profits toward his goal. His product is new on the market this year and is the invention of another Michigan entrepreneur.

Schneider has been attending the Grand Rapids Inventors Network (GRIN) since February. The organization is a gathering of innovative thinkers who have access to advisors in a variety of business aspects, such as patents and copyrights. There, Schneider met someone who had created the camouflage tape and was selling it out of a home office for his own business, Dynamic Solutions. The product is called Ghillie Tape, after the Irish Ghillie suits favored by snipers worldwide.

Covert Eagle USA has had the benefit of support from Ellen Schmucker, volunteer and organizer of nonprofit Hats Off to Servicemembers. As Covert Eagles’s chief strategy officer, the family friend helps with monthly executive meetings.

Schneider has also recruited two classmates as interns. Caleb Markin, former Squire paper carrier is one. Schneider said he is not alone, or even unusual, to be a young person and have ambitions of running his own business. Markin, he said, would love to start a restaurant.

Schneider said he loves being both a student and an executive, and said Rockford has prepared him well, offering classes in business. He said he has taken every one the district offers and believes the school has had to cut some of the classes he’s taken because of budget issues. He believes it is unfortunate kids coming up behind him may not have the benefit of all the classes he has been able to take.

When Schneider talked to Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler, who is on the board of directors for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Shibler advised him to look into the organization. That, along with GRIN, has been a source of information and networking for Schneider.

“Part of my business ethic is to look to see what negative aspects your industry might be causing and try to make a difference,” he stated.

Because he ultimately would like to deal in weaponry, Schneider researched and found out some countries are recruiting kids to serve in the military. Because of that, he donates one dollar of every sale to Project AK47, which is trying to stop the trend of making kids fight.

Schneider said he plans to continue his education at Grand Valley State University, where he will further study business. Wherever his ambition takes him, Schneider said he is not alone or in bad company as a young person with a dream and the determination to take action now. Some others who put their passion in action, starting their own business at a young age, include Bill Gates; Tom Anderson, the inventor of My Space; Mark Zuckerberg, who dreamed up Facebook; and billionaire Fred DeLuca, who, at age 17, borrowed $1,000 from a friend and founded Subway. Not a bad crowd to emulate.

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