Abi Smithson, a nine-year-old student at Maple Wood Public School in Mississauga, Ontario, may seem like your typical fourth-grader. She enjoys singing, dancing, playing on the computer and climbing trees. But, although only in elementary school, she already has entrepreneurial ambitions and is well on her way of achieving them.
It began when she took Kids Learning Code, a program ran by the Toronto-based Ladies Learning Code to teach programming and other technical skills to youth. It was through the program that Smithson recently developed her own video game, and learned HTML coding, CSS and Google Glass.
“The experience was not like my normal school because I did things that I never would have done in my classroom,” Smithson explains in an interview. “I learned how to set up my Gmail, create a blog and website, and then learn to code, which I want to know more about. The video game we made was to get all the stars and avoid the enemies and you would win the game. It was not a very detailed game, but it was fun because I made it.”
Smithson says that she aspires to be either an inventor or coder when she’s older. “I like inventing because it lets me be creative and solve problems. I enjoy coding because it is fun and I get to learn a new language.”
And she’s currently working on the prototype of her first invention, something she calls the “Love Sandal.”
“The Love Sandal is a shoe for girls and women that leaves hearts in the sand when you walk,” Smithson explains.
The idea came to her last summer when she noticed the tan lines on her mom’s feet while they were in the car. “It would be better if the tan lines were in the shape of a heart,” Smithson says.
Smithson is working with different materials to create a prototype and is drafting a business plan with help from her mentor, Robert Ott, chair of Ryerson University’s School of Fashion.
Evidently, entrepreneurship runs in the family. Smithson’s mom, Julie, and her dad, Alan, are both entrepreneurs themselves. They manage SmithsonMartin Inc., a Toronto-based startup (of which Alan is co-founder) that specializes in multi-touch control applications for music, recording, professional lighting and performance art.
“My husband and I built the Emulator, the most technologically enhanced DJ performance system, as well as an audio mastering software,” Julie says. However, “[Abi] has got to find her own footsteps. She’s got a lot of really good ideas.”
In terms of future ideas, Smithson says she already has plans to create a version of her sandal for kids, as well as an app that allows you to dress up dolls. “My dad and I are always looking at problems and trying to solve them through software.”
“Based on the future of business, our kids should know more about how business works and how technology is set up before entering the workforce or advancing into a post-secondary facility,” Julie says. “The tools are available, the kids are smart and when it comes to technology, everyone wants to know more.”