Making Child’s Play Work
The Carolina four who show the way
Maddy Reid, an 11-year-old competitive gymnast and the youngest coach at Lake Murray Gymnastics, teaches Eliza Kate Rikard the basics of gymnastics.
Photography by Jeff Amberg
It is not child’s play. Becoming a business owner, coaching kids or being a performer is now the work of children. This is the story of four local kids who expect and are getting the best from themselves.
At 16, Lee Livingston is this group’s senior citizen. He established K-9IFIND, his company, at age 8 when he started locating specific dog breeds for clients; now he is also a breeder of English Bulldogs. Lee always showed a natural instinct for animals, and as a 4-year-old, he could convince his cat to allow its teeth to be brushed and to submit to regular baths. Lee moved on to tracking down strays to clean up and would then try to find a home for them. He was so successful that Jessie Tindal, his aunt, began to be an intermediary for Lee and people with unwanted dogs. The business evolved from there.
Lee was as driven to learn as he was to find strays. Volunteering allowed him access to vets, clinics and the kind of knowledge that strengthened his skills. Thus, he began the networking that is crucial to finding the best animals. He also gained the skills of professional grooming and breeding. Now working with Paws and Claws, he adds to his knowledge by being able to observe medical procedures as well.
Lee is a member of St. Peter Baptist Church in Irmo and is mentored by Pastor Bishop Odell Sims. Lee has strong faith and a very supportive family. He is a junior at the Environmental Academy of Spring Hill High School in Chapin. A Career Pathways Magnet School, it puts focus on cultivating innovative thinkers and fostering creativity. Lee’s future plans are to earn a veterinarian degree as well as to become a breeder of genetically improved English Bulldogs. This path has been in place a long time. Lillie and Shellie Livingston, Lee’s mother and father, say, “At a very young age, he told us that when he grew up, he wanted to be an animal doctor. At that point, he did not know it was called a veterinarian, but he always had that in his heart. He had a purpose in mind.”
His business’ purpose is to provide his clients with the best dog possible. K-9IFIND is supported by word-of-mouth and business referrals. When contacted by a client, he begins by gathering information needed for a successful search — what type of dog, purebred or rescue, age of animal and price range. His charge varies according to the various factors involved. Some searches can be relatively quick and local. Searches for smaller breeds, particularly the teacup sizes, can involve extensive cross-country searches, a multitude of communications with breeders and precise coordination on everything, especially safe transportation of the pet.
Creating a quality business has brought Lee enviable attention. In 2012, the Auntie Karen Foundation named him its “Young Entrepreneur of the Year.” This organization encourages and showcases talented and creative youth such as Lee.
Maddy Reid is an 11-year-old honor roll student at Chapin Intermediate School, but when school is out, she becomes a gymnast and coach at Lake Murray Gymnastics. It’s a family affair with Abby and John Reid, her parents and coaches, joining her at the gym as soon as their regular work days end. Previously college coaches, their continued commitment to the sport had them bringing baby Maddy to the gym during their private coaching lessons. Not long after she started walking, her natural ability for the sport was evident to her parents, who were unable to ignore the inevitable. At 3 years old, younger than most, they knew her little body was ready to start.
Through observation, experience and determination, Coach Maddy, as she is affectionately known, has honed both her gymnastic and coaching skills. Interspersed with school, 25-plus training hours a week and travel on the weekends for events, Maddy runs her own sports business. By appointment, she offers individualized coaching for her clients, all girls ages 4 to 9 years old. Her $10 per half hour fee brings with it an advantage many coaches can’t claim.
For three years, she has faced fierce state and national competitions to be selected as a Talent Opportunity Program qualifier. These athletes attend training at the Olympic Center in Houston, Texas, learning from and with Olympic coaches and competitors. Most of the Olympians in this sport are alumni of the TOPs program. Each year, Coach Maddy comes home with additional inside knowledge and experience that she passes on to her clients.
When asked if the Olympics is a goal for her, Maddy says that she just wants to see how far her training can take her. Like her parents, she doesn’t envision coaching as her primary profession. “My goal isn’t really to become a coach. It’s to become an architect, so maybe in my spare time, I’ll coach,” she says. Performance skills are an essential part of Maddy’s presentations.
Ten-year-old Breana Tepper, a fourth grader at Harbison West Elementary, has worked hard to excel at performing as well. Like Maddy, Breana started out being a sidekick to her parent’s activity. At church choir rehearsals with Lourdes Tepper, her mother, the toddler was listening and learning.
Utilizing musical therapy to help others had been a focus of Lourdes in college. At the funeral of a relative, the 4-year-old Breana felt the same desire to help through music. She started singing to cheer everyone up. It was her first “public appearance,” but certainly not her last. Even after doing 35 events, including one at Disney World, Breana pushes herself hard. At the Dance Station, she trains to improve her singing, dancing and stage presence with Tammy Johns, former Mrs. United States 2009.
This past year, Breana performed in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with the legendary Dolly Parton at the latter’s Dollywood Theme Park in The Christmas Carol. Getting that far meant coming up against strong national competition. Down to a field of 50 kids, she — and especially the boys — were surprised that she captured the starring role of “Tiny Tim.” The significance of her win is even more astounding when one considers that this event is the eight-time award winner of America’s Best Christmas Event.
The expectations for these child-actors were high considering the time away from home for months, especially during the holidays, doing four performances a day, working 10 to 12 hours daily and then still having to complete homework. But the rewards were high as well. Equally important to Breana as the paycheck was the opportunity to work with Dolly, who wrote seven songs for the event, as well as with the other singers and songwriters. It was the direction Breana had been embarking on already. Prior to Gatlinburg, she and local musician/songwriter CJ Mack had started putting together songs for her upcoming CD of Christian Pop. Now she had even more valuable advice to help make her recordings and songwriting even better.
Some would say faith also played a definite hand in the creation of Gabby Goodwin’s business, GaBBY Bows. It started with a lot of bad hair days — and barrettes constantly being repurchased. Rozalynn Goodwin, her mother, styled Gabby’s hair every morning. Throughout the day, her efforts were literally coming undone as the barrettes were constantly lost. Rozalynn is a wife, mother of two, the vice president of community engagement for the South Carolina Hospital Association, a community supporter, church member and blogger of SpitUpOnMyBlazer.com. She is busy –– thus, no additional aggravation was needed. When her barrette frustration hit the rant level, she found on Twitter that there were lots of empathic moms and one pastor –– hers — Dr. Herbert Bailey. His thought was that this might be a market to break into.
Five-year-old Gabby began to campaign, as only a young child can, for bows that would stay in place — her bows, to be sold in all the stores, no less. As a mother, Rozalynn wanted to encourage her daughter to strive for her dreams. Thus, the Goodwin girls commandeered the dinner table. They analyzed features of existing products, dismantling, letting Gabby test run their experiments. Eventually they created a truly functional barrette –– one that actually stays put. The design is the first of its kind and has a design patent and a pending utility patent to protect it.
Unlike other barrettes, it has a center strip to firmly secure the lock of hair wrapped around it. Then the barrette is snapped into place, but not once, twice, as there is a snap on each end of the barrette. They also doubled up on the exterior design, which is two-faced, so no matter which direction the hair is hanging, a decorative side of the barrette is showing. Gabby is actually the creator of the “face-outs’” look, giving them names that little girls are often called — “Sweet Pea” and “Little Lady” as well as selecting colors that coordinate with a young girl’s fashions.
Rozalynn’s thought was to simply sell the design concept to a hair accessory company. When the company did not quite share Gabby’s vision, their perseverance was tested. Three and a half years later, with the help and direction of a product design firm, Gabby had her dream –– a viable product presented to the world on her own website GaBBYBows.com. Two years later, the product is now available in select Walgreens, Bi-Lo and Once Upon a Child stores. A store locator and online store is available on Gabby’s website so that buyers can order there, as well as on Amazon to join the sales coming in from all across the United States and six countries.
CEO and president, Gabby has not gone unnoticed in the state or nationally. Continuing to do what hasn’t been done before, Gabby became the youngest entrepreneur to be awarded The South Carolina Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2015), presented personally by another successful woman, Gov. Nikki Haley. This in turn led to her being in a very select group of national finalists for that year’s InnovateHer Business Challenge, a United States Small Business Administration competition held in Washington, D.C. Being far south of the minimum age of 18 required for those giving presentations, Gabby had to let her co-inventor, co-founder mother do hers. Regardless, she has had a large amount of print and film coverage showing she can hold her own. In fact, catch her on FOX network’s The Real on a “Girls Powered” segment airing June 2, 2016.
Keeping her grades up for the Escolares Academy at Harbison West Elementary, doing meet-and-greets in stores as well as filming shows, filling her online orders — complete with a written thank-you note for every purchase, maintaining all the other aspects of the business and just being a regular kid keeps Gabby busy. Her focus, she says, is now about expanding her product line, growing her market, earning more awards and eventually going to college for a business degree. Rozalynn says, “Gabby wants to eventually run the business with her own daughter and teach ballet at night.” The most important thing to the Goodwin ladies is summed up by Rozalynn, “We are trying to establish a legacy of confidence, perseverance and faith which in turn inspires other girls.”
All of those qualities and more certainly make up the core of these four kids. Yet none of them see anything they are doing as a sacrifice of their time or childhood. Self-driven and self-motivated, they are propelled forward by the fun they are having. They love what they are doing. Maybe it isn’t child’s work after all. Perhaps for them, it is the best child’s play ever.
Business name: K-9IFIND
Child’s name: Lee R. Livingston
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Child’s name: Maddy Reid
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Child’s name: Breana Tepper
YouTube page: Goofytep
Business name: GaBBY Bows
Child’s name: Gabby Goodwin
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