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11-year-old entrepreneur starts online rummage sales to help fund schools

You don’t have to wait until you’re old enough to drop out of college to launch an entrepreneurial enterprise. Now 13 years old, Belle Pan was 11 when she first pitched the concept for iRummage. The iRummage venture helps schools benefit from year-round online rummage sales of donated goods, as reported by Geekwire.

Schools that use iRummage solicit donations of items that might otherwise be sold in yard or rummage sales. Central to Belle Pan’s vision is involving other school age kids in iRummage so they too can have the experience of working with a startup. She’s as much an advocate for young entrepreneurship as she is for helping raise money for schools. “One of the goals that we have is to train 100,000 10-year-old CEOs,” says Pan.

Almost by accident, at age 11 Pan observed another student her age preparing a presentation at a Startup Weekend she attended with her entrepreneur father. She was inspired to make a pitch herself on the spot. Following that initial experience, Pan gathered a team and has been developing iRummage.

In her own school, Lakeside School in North Seattle, Washington, Pan had observed that an annual rummage sale fundraiser for much-needed extra funding was about to be abandoned because of logistical hassles. That need combined with her desire to help other young people learn about business and entrepreneurship were a match.

When a school signs up with iRummage, “The general idea is that the school campaigns are run by the kids, and we structure the kids in a company format. So we have a school CEO, a school CTO, and a school CFO,” Pan said. She also stated that the C-level positions are filled by older students, which in this case means they’re at least fifth graders. Students as young as first grade can get involved as “iRummage ambassadors” helping with community outreach, collecting donating items, and working in all aspects of sales.

By design, parent and school staff participation are minimal in iRummage campaigns, which last all year. “It’s meant to be as painless as possible for the school,” Pan said. All funds raised through the sales of donated goods will go to the schools, with no money currently held out by iRummage. In Pan’s vision, as iRummage grows she believes it has the potential to raise $100 million for Washington state schools.