How an Aussie Kid Started His Own Custom 3D Printing Business

Phoenix is a student at Flaxmill Primary School in South Australia. He was introduced to Makers Empire, 3D design and 3D printing last year by his Year 6 teacher, Bill Mansell, and the school’s STEM Coordinator, Ms Weir.  This kick-started a journey into 3D printing that has seen Phoenix purchase his own 3D printer and start a small business making custom 3D prints for his students and teachers at his school. We spoke with Phoenix and his mum, Danielle, about his 3D printing journey.

Phoenix explains, “I didn’t really know much about 3D printing until I saw the 3D printer for the first time. This is where I became fascinated with it. I first designed a bag tag and I was really happy with it. So then I went on and designed a space shuttle with my grandpa… It was great fun… I really liked (3D design and printing).” 

After using Makers Empire at school, Phoenix went on to use Tinkercad and Fusion 360 for creating his 3D designs.

“The designing part is fun but then 3D printing it and seeing what I have designed, being able to hold it in my hand, that was also great fun,” he says. 

“We definitely encouraged it,” said his mum, Danielle. ‘It’s good to be using what he’s learned at school at home.”

It wasn’t long before Phoenix realised that his hobby could be a potential source of income. He watched some YouTube tutorials and started thinking about how to turn his hobby into a business. 

He says, “I wanted to start a flow of money coming in as I don’t get pocket money for doing things at home like the dishes and feeding the animals so if I wanted to buy anything I’d have to wait for birthdays or Christmas… I thought what if I could get my own 3D printer and design other things.”

Danielle had previously had her own cake making business at home so she happily encouraged and supported him.

After presenting his detailed research on 3D printers to his mother,  Phoenix used his own birthday and holiday money to purchase a Flashforge Adventurer 3 3D printer. 

“He was very persuasive… it was very in-depth research,” says Danielle. 

“I saved up to buy my own 3D printer after lots of research about the best ones,” he says. “I used the (Flashforge) Inventor 2 at school.”

Deciding what 3D printed products to make and sell was simple.

“I started with designing and making the fidget fabric (above, left) as I had already made a fabric,’ Phoenix explains. “When I was thinking of what I wanted to sell at school I knew popits (below, right) were a big thing and everyone wants something to fidget with.”

In terms of selling his fidget fabrics, Phoenix decided to try selling at his school first. 

Danielle says, ” I said, you can go to school and try to sell to the kids but understand that if the teachers say no, listen to them, and we can work out another way to sell them.  And then he comes home and says, ‘I have 27 orders and five are from teachers.'”

Phoenix explain, “I made a lot of sales right away! I made some more things which didn’t do as well as the fabric but still did OK. I am saving for a VR headset and am nearly halfway there already.”  

The majority of Phoenix’s sales are to students and teachers at his school. In terms of the ordering system, Phoenix takes new sample prints to school to show people, writes his orders down on paper and then collects the cash payment when he delivers the order. He packages the finished prints in branded biodegradable bags supplied by his grandmother. 

“I designed (the logo for my company) in Word and then we got the stickers printed,” Phoenix says. 

“I found a company online who will print stickers of whatever you send them,” explains Danielle.  

Phoenix has also received orders from friends and family members. For example, a friend of a family member asked him to make her a custom tea bag holder (below, right).

 

Phoenix is still using Makers Empire at school. This term, his school is part of the Andy Thomas Space Foundation pilot program, which aims to help primary aged children develop an interest in a space-related career via a custom Makers Empire professional learning course for teachers, and Makers Empire tools and resources for students. 

When not at school, Phoenix continues to make custom prints, as well as holiday-themed prints: with Christmas coming up, Phoenix has plans to sell Christmas-themed 3D prints to both his schoolmates and to the general public via stalls at upcoming Christmas markets. He may also create a website to sell to the public down the track.

“Designing and seeing the end product is fun. The designing is fun because I run into all sorts of problems that I have to overcome,” he says. 

Seeing his 3D printed products being used by kids at school is a great feeling, too

“It makes me feel really happy. Sometimes kids swap them for other things. I see them around, and I think, I made that – that’s cool,” he says.

Thanks for sharing your entrepreneurial journey with us, Phoenix. We look forward to following your progress!

Interested in ordering a custom print from Phoenix? For now, the best way to contact him is via his Instagram page, which his mother manages. 

Tips for Kids Wanting To Start Their Own Business

Starting your own business can be incredibly rewarding and fun. It can also be challenging and tough at times. Here are some questions and tips to help you get started.

  1. Practise empathy. How can you help people? What could you do or make that would improve someone’s life? 
  2. Play to your strengths. What are you good at? How could you use your strengths to deliver a product or service that people will pay for?
  3. Know your ideal customer. Who is your ideal customer? How will you promote your products to them? How much could they pay for your product or service?
  4. Assess your resources. What resources do you already have? This could include access to a phone, computer or piece of specialised equipment. Will you need to buy/hire any equipment or materials to make your products?
  5. Ask an adult for help. Share your plans with your parents/guardian and teachers and ask them for advice.
  6. Ordering, questions and payments. How will you handle orders and payments? How can people communicate with you in a safe way? It’s one thing to sell products to students and teachers at your school; selling products to the general public requires extra consideration and support to ensure you manage orders, questions from customers and payments in a safe way.
  7. Practise safe online behaviours. Many apps that you might use to communicate with customers have minimum age limits. So you will need to ask an adult to help you with orders and customer service. We know of siblings with a custom 3D printing business who take orders via a Facebook page that is managed by their mum. The kids focus on designing and printing custom prints and their mum handles all the customers and payments.  
  8. Learn from your mistakes. Running your own business means having to learn how to do a lot of new things. Mistakes will definitely happen. It’s important not to focus too much on the mistakes or blame, and to try to focus on what you have learned and what you will do differently in the future instead. 
  9. Understand legal requirements. It’s important to make sure your business is operating in accordance with your local laws. Ask an adult to help you research and understand any legal issues related to your business. 
  10.  Understand health and safety requirements. It’s important to make sure you are running your business in a safe way. Ask an adult to help you research and understand any health and safety issues related to running your business. For a 3D printing-related business, see What You Need to Know about Safety and Air Filters.

Buy the Adventurer 4 3D Printer

Makers Empire is selling the updated version of the excellent Adventurer 3 printer that Phoenix uses.

We’ve thoroughly tested this printed (800 hours and counting!) so we know it extremely well. It’s a great, reliable 3D printer and we happily recommend it schools, small businesses and home users. 

  1. Read our detailed Adventurer 4 3D printer review 
  2. Read our Adventurer 4 3D printer unboxing article
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