Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur and the Best Test
Not-So-Sure Things, Inc.
I’M BILLY SURE. I’m twelve years old and I would say that generally, I’m a pretty happy kid. I have a great family. I love my mom and dad, though I miss my mom—she’s away a lot. My dad is great—a great painter, a great gardener—and a terrible cook. And even though my fourteen-year-old sister Emily can be a real . . . well, a real fourteen-year-old sister, lately we’ve been getting along pretty well. And then there’s my dog, Philo. We’re great buds, and he’s a really cool dog.
I do all right in school, and I have friends.
My best friend, Manny Reyes, also happens to be my business partner. Okay, I know that having a business partner might sound weird for a twelve-year-old, but here’s the deal (uh-oh, I’m starting to sound like Manny).
In addition to being a seventh grader at Fillmore Middle School, I’m an inventor. The company Manny and I run is called SURE THINGS, INC. We’ve had a number of successful inventions ever since we came out with our first product, the ALL BALL—a ball that changes into different sports balls with the touch of a button. It comes in two sizes. The large All Ball transforms from soccer ball to football to volleyball to basketball and even a bowling ball. And the small All Ball can change into a baseball, a tennis ball, a golf ball, a Ping-Pong ball, and a hockey puck. As soon as it came out, the All Ball was a hit!
At Sure Things, Inc., I do the inventing, and Manny handles the marketing, numbers, planning, selling, advertising, computers . . . basically, everything necessary to take my inventions and make them hits. We are a pretty terrific team. We’ve made some money, which goes back into the company as well as into our college funds, but mostly I invent things because I love inventing things. I also love working with Manny.
I even get to pick up Philo after school each day and bring him to work with me at Sure Things, Inc. Pretty cool. For me, every day is “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”
So, I repeat, I’m a pretty happy kid.
Except at this particular moment. Let me explain.
Sure Things, Inc. has just had to cancel an invention that we were certain was going to be our Next Big Thing. It was called the CAT-DOG TRANSLATOR, and it did exactly what it sounds like it would do. It took the barks and meows of pets and translated those sounds
into human language. Sounds great, right? That’s what Manny and I thought. But there was a problem.
The problem was not that the Cat-Dog Translator didn’t work. Quite the opposite. The invention worked well. Too well.
Think about it. Your cat or dog sees you at your best, but also at your worst. You don’t care how you look or how you’re dressed or even what you do in front of your pet. Now imagine that your pet could share anything with the whole world, including the things you’d rather nobody ever knew. Get the picture? Well, this is exactly what happened.
This morning I, or rather, the Cat-Dog Translator, was the star of a school assembly during which I demonstrated the invention. At first things went pretty well—that is until Principal Gilamon thought it would be a good idea to bring his own dog in to try out the translator.
BIG MISTAKE! The dog blurted out to the entire school that Principal Gilamon farts in his sleep—and while this was very funny, it was also very bad. Principal Gilamon was pretty angry. Make that very angry.
Other kids’ pets revealed stuff about them that they were not too pleased about either. And so, by the end of the assembly, the big problems that came along with this invention were enough to make Manny and me decide not to move forward with it.
Which brings me to the whole “not such a happy kid at the moment” thing. Manny and I put a huge amount of time and work into developing the Cat-Dog Translator. We even got a sponsor to put up money to help with the costs of production and marketing, a big chunk
of which we spent, figuring that the invention was a . . . well, a sure thing.
So we had to dip into our savings to give back the money we had spent. Our company, which got so successful so quickly, is now in danger of going out of business. And I’m not sure if I even want to invent anymore.
This afternoon Manny and I are sitting in the world headquarters of Sure Things, Inc., otherwise known as the garage at Manny’s house, trying to figure out our next move.
“What about getting some money from a bank?” Manny suggests as he scans four websites at once, checking out short-term loans, interest rates, and a whole bunch of other money-type stuff I really don’t understand. “Or, like I said earlier, we could invent something new.”
“What if we just went back to being regular kids again?” I ask. “You know, like we were before the All Ball?” I feel a small sense of relief having said this aloud, after testing it out in my head about a hundred times.
Manny stays silent, his focus glued to his computer screen.
“I mean, what about that?” I continue, knowing that if I wait for Manny to speak when he’s this locked in to something, I could be waiting all day. “No more double life trying to be both seventh graders and successful inventors and businesspeople. How bad would that be to just be students again? It doesn’t mean I can’t invent stuff for fun, like I used to do.”
I pause, giving Manny another chance to respond. No such luck.
“For me, it would just mean that I wouldn’t have to live with the pressure of always coming up with the Next Big Thing, of always having to worry about how much money my inventions are going to make.”
Still nothing from Manny.
“You know my routine,” I go on. “Get up, go to school, go home to pick up Philo, come here, invent, go home, do homework, go to bed, sleep invent. Then get up the next day and do the
whole thing again. I mean, what if I didn’t have to do that anymore? Would that be terrible?”
I finish. I have to admit these thoughts have bounced around my brain more than once on stressful nights trying to invent while also trying to complete homework assignments on time.
Just as I wonder if Manny is ever going to speak again, he turns from his screen.
“I’m sorry, did you say something?” he says, straight-faced.
“I—I—” I stammer in disbelief. Did I really just go through all that for nothing? Did I share my deepest doubts and worries with my best friend, when I just as easily could have told them to Philo for all the help I’d get?
Manny cracks up and punches me gently in the arm. “I heard you,” he says, smiling. “It’s just that things were getting a little too serious around here.”
“Well, what do you think?” I ask. I really depend on Manny’s advice. He’s super smart and almost always knows what to do in a tense
situation while remaining perfectly cool and composed. That is reason #744 why Manny is my best friend and business partner.
“You could stop being a professional inventor if you want,” Manny begins in his usual calm voice. “But we both know that inventing is what you are best at. It seems to me that for you to be anything other than the WORLD-CLASS INVENTOR you are would be cheating yourself, and the world, of your talent.”
Hmm . . . I hadn’t really thought about it that way.
But Manny is just getting warmed up. “You’re lucky,” he continues. “You know what you love to do. You know what makes you happy. You know what you’re best at. And you’re only twelve. Some people go through their whole lives and never figure out what they are best at.”
As usual, what Manny says makes great sense to me. I guess I am pretty lucky that I already know what I’m best at. I start to think about people going through their whole lives
and not knowing. It’s kinda sad. I feel bad for them. Ideas start to WHIZ around and BUZZ through my brain.
“It would be great if we could help those people,” I say.
And then—Ding! Ding! Ding!—the lightbulb goes off for both of us. Manny and I look at each other and smile. The worry and indecision about my future dissolves in an instant.
“What if we invented something that would help people, whether they’re kids or adults, know what they’re best at?” I say, feeling energized by the idea. “I can see it now . . . a helmet or something that you put on your head that tells you what your best talent is. No more wondering what you’re going to be when you grow up. With Sure Things, Inc.’s BEST TEST HELMET, you’ll know what you should do for the rest of your life, the moment you put the invention on your head!”
Uh-oh, he doesn’t like the idea.
“Well, the slogan could use some tweaking,” he says in a mock-serious tone that instantly tells me he’s kidding. “And we can just call it the BEST TEST. But . . . I LOVE IT!”
Leave it to Manny to snap me out of my funk and get me excited about a new invention. Now, of course, all I have to do is invent it!