When I first met these two teen entrepreneurs, I was immediately taken by their passion, interest, and expertise in an area I know nothing about: Fire Tech.
Sebastien Burkhardt and Barrett Deng both have a passion for the wildfire industry and both want to make a positive impact on the environment. They have decided to do this by launching Clore.
Recently I had a chance to chat with them about what it’s been like bringing Clore to market and how they are navigating homework and a new product launch.
What made you decide to launch Clore?
Sebastien - The idea for Clore came to us when we were in Boston on vacation.
I actually remember the date - July 21, 2021. There had been horrific wildfires on the West Coast and the smoke had drifted all the way to the East Coast! We started talking about the impact the wildfires were having on everyone and immediately wanted to help. While we didn’t create the solution at that moment, it was the day when the mission of our company was decided.
It must be hard juggling school, hobbies, homework, extracurriculars, and Clore. How do you balance it all?
Barrett - We both definitely have a lot on our plates - between AP homework, sports (Barrett plays water polo and Sebastien plays soccer) and all the work with Clore, at times it’s overwhelming. One of the ways we both balance everything is by staying organized and prioritizing tasks. We also know our strengths. For example, I do a lot of the behind-the-scenes like building the website, etc. and Sebastien focuses on outreach and building a network. We also have a shared calendar and attend weekly WIT meetings.
Have you experienced any setbacks? How did you handle them?
Sebastien - We have experienced plenty of setbacks in everything from sales to raising money. An example of this was when a VC group which had over 500 applicants chose Clore as one of the three finalists to pitch to them. On our first call with them they asked our age. After I answered, they said they were not interested in hearing the pitch or investing. While this rejection based solely on our age hurt, we know that if it was easy to run a company, everyone would be doing it. We also know that one day that group will wish they had invested in us!
What advice would you give to a teen who is thinking about starting a business?
Barrett - One of my biggest pieces of advice for teens starting their own business is to find something that you are super passionate about. Starting a business can take a lot of time and effort, but it must be something that you truly enjoy or care about. We started Clore being super passionate about the wildfire industry and wanting to make a positive impact on the environment. This passion motivates us when we are doing tasks that we aren’t so passionate about but know will help us in the long run.
I know you are pitching to adults and companies run by adults. Do you feel like you are taken seriously?
Sebastien - When we first started our company, we didn’t have a network that would help us. This often led us to be in situations where adults would reject us just because of our age. As we started doing more outreach, working with WIT, and stepping outside our comfort zones, things started to change. Most recently I served as a co-emcee at a SXSW EDU Startup Competition. Participating in events like that helps us meet more adults who take us seriously.
What is one of the top things you have learned being a teen entrepreneur in WIT?
Barrett - I have learned to put my all in whatever I do. One of the top things that WIT emphasizes is that your business is YOUR business. If you want it to be a smashing success...YOU have to want that more than anyone else at WIT. This inspires me and reminds me everyday to try my hardest at everything I do.
Any goals for 2023?
Sebastien - Our main goals for this year is setting up partnerships with Faura as we support their idea of helping protect communities from wildfires. Also we want to have our product on shelves at Ace Hardware to make it easy for customers to buy fire retardants. We also intend to sell bundle packs on our website, making it easy for customers to protect their own backyard.
Anything else you want to share?
Barrett - We have definitely learned that we can’t do this alone. We have a community
of supporters like fellow teen entrepreneurs at WIT, mentors like Ben Jen, everyone at 1517 Fund for their constant support, Patrick Alias for helping with our sales plan, our parents, and even our dogs who are loyal companions through all of this!
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