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Small Business—Watch out, Bill Gates. A 12-year-old entrepreneur may be catching up with you

Look out, Bill Gates. A 12-year-old entrepreneur known to peers and family as “The Gumball” may be giving you a run for your money in the near future.

The Gumball, who also goes by the name of Carl Stricker, is the inventor of a wooden gumball machine that has bubblegum chewers chomping at the bit.

Selling for $10 a machine, business has been bubbling for Stricker. He has sold more than 100 machines, earning a couple hundred dollars in profit, he said.

His invention has been so well-received that it was recently placed on order with Applebox Woodentoys, a toy store in Seaport Village, to be sold as non-assembled machines for young children to put together.

With the help of his father, Wally Stricker, a general contractor who dabbles in woodworking, Carl Stricker runs his business, Wood Toys From Pt. Loma, out of his garage. There, he makes and assembles the machines and then sells them at crafts shows and to classmates.


– Profits Saved For A Computer

For Carl, the best part of being a businessman is the profit.

“You make a lot of money. I’m saving for my own computer to go in my bedroom,” said Stricker, something he hopes to have by the end of the school year.

He made some 300 machines over the summer and is building more after school.

The idea for his own business started when Stricker’s father surprised him with a wooden gumball machine he made as a welcome-back gift while he was away on summer vacation.

“I was making the machine for Carl as a present, but he’s the one who turned it into a business,” Wally Stricker said.

Carl was taken with the handcrafted machine and decided he wanted to make more and sell them. Improving and refining the machine, he was ready for the next step.

Carl and his father mapped out a business plan. His dad said if he wanted to make machines, he was going to need money. With plan and product in hand, Stricker approached US Bank in Point Loma for a business loan.

“It’s wonderful for young people to have that kind of initiative and carry it forward,” said John Rebelo, market chairman at US Bank.


– Bank Loan Quickly Repaid

Impressed by the boy’s motivation and idea, Rebelo drew up the loan documents.

“I thought the project was a great idea and besides that, the gum was awfully good,” said Rebelo, who purchased a few machines for his grandchildren. Stricker paid back the $257 loan within a week.

Rebelo said the experience has been a good learning process for Stricker.

“It’s a great experience for young kids to know what business is all about,” Rebelo said.

Stricker agreed.

“I’ve learned how to use the wood machines,” Stricker said, skills that will be helpful for him in the future. As an adult, he wants to open a store that will sell “lots of wood stuff, like gumball machines and skateboards.”

He also appears to be quite a salesman.

“He’s very personable,” said his mother, Terry Stricker. “He’ll get out and sell to anyone who comes up to the booth (at craft fairs), he’s not intimidated by anyone.”

“He’s getting an education that is much more important than the cash,” Wally Stricker said. “He’s learning how to acquire funds, what interest is, what expenses are in business and he’s learning about how much time it takes to put something like this together.”


– Work Cuts Into Play Time

Carl Stricker said that one of the downfalls is the time commitment that comes with being an entrepreneur.

“When I want to go play, I have to stay and work so I can make more machines. But I’ll go play for a little bit and then come back and make the machines,” he said.

Despite his dedication, his business is more enjoyment than work.

“It’s fun and I get to eat a lot of gum,” Stricker said.

The bubblegum craze has become quite addictive in the Stricker household.

Stricker admits that having his own business is quite unusual for a sixth-grader.

“Usually people don’t start their own business when they’re 11 or 12, they wait until they’re adults,” he said.


– Entrepreneur Gains Fame

Being “The Gumball” has its perks. Carl has appeared on the Channel 10 news and News 8’s Larry Himmel’s “Neighborhoods” segment. He’s also scheduled to appear on KUSI’s morning news with Stan Miller and Laura Buxton.

His new business has also brought him fame among fellow Dana Middle School classmates. “A lot of people will come up to me and say they saw me on TV or kids will ask me for gum,” he said.

When he’s not a businessman, he’s just another kid.

“I like to play soccer and ride my skateboard,” he said. Ultimately, Stricker said if he could sell a gumball machine to anyone, it would be to Padres star Tony Gwynn.

Tony, if you’re reading this, would you be interested in buying a wooden gumball machine? Christmas is right around the corner.

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