What does Trent Williams, 13, like to do more than algebra? Count sales and inventory. That's because Trent is an entrepreneur. He went into the jewelry business in May at a church convention with help from his grandmother to pay his private school tuition in Atlanta.
Before Trent became a teenager, he spent every summer with his grandmother, learning how to sell items at church events, including fairs, bazaars, and conventions. He watched her interact with cashiers at the grocery store and bargain with department store managers in Detroit. This year, he did not spend the summer with his grandmother and opted with his mother's permission to start his own Atlanta-based business.
His grandmother, Carole Hogan-Williams, gave him the seed money to get started this year. His biggest customers are women and men who buy costume jewelry for their wives or girlfriends. He is becoming a regular vendor on the weekend golf circuit. Last month, Trent sold jewelry at a Clark Atlanta University golf tournament, the Atlanta Metropolitan State College Golfing for Scholarships Classic, and a tournament at Browns Mill Golf Course.
So far, Trent, a new seventh-grade student this fall at Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia, has business expenses of $400 and earned more than $800. His mother, Rachel Williams, says his sales have doubled since his first vending booth in May. "The average cost of the jewelry he sells is $30 for a necklace and earring set. His annual goal for fundraising is for his [school] tuition at $22,000 a year."
Trent said, "I enjoy selling jewelry, because I can joke around with customers." His advice for other aspiring salesmen? "Do not think badly of yourself, always keep a positive smile on your face, and just have fun with it."
Dubbed "The Smartest Kid in the World" by his mother, Trent wears his prep school uniform as his professional attire and uses charm and a professional sales pitch for his customers.
First, he displays his jewelry and makes sure he asks the right questions, gets his customers curious, handles objections, and then asks for the sale. There are always women surrounding his booth. As more clients crowd around to see what he is selling, Trent stops to greet and hug or shake their hands.
A budding entrepreneur? Far-fetched charisma for a salesman? No. Trent is on a mission to help raise money as part charity, part economics show and feat for his annual tuition. Raised by a single mom, Trent is facing responsibility head-on and uses the dubbed "smart kid" slogan by his mother as motivation, and word is getting out. He was interviewed on Facebook this summer by a reporter.
His reputation precedes him. A businesswoman, Sonia L. Pulliam, explains, "You have to meet this teenager who sells jewelry to raise money for his school tuition." Recently, Trent weaved with ease in and out of the group of people who visited his booth at a bazaar, which Pulliam co-sponsored.
Repeat business keeps Trent busy. His mother's cell phone rings constantly for vending opportunities at public and private events in Atlanta.
"He brings joy to everyone and even took care of my sister who had cancer one summer," Hogan-Williams said. "After her death, Trent said he wanted to find a cure for cancer."
An A and B student, Trent excels in science and math in school. Ask the smartest kid in the world questions about Albert Einstein, Dr. Jonas Salk, or Dr. Ben Carson, and his face will light up as he gives an impromptu history lesson to anyone who will listen.
What does he do when he's not selling his jewelry? Trent's hobbies include chess, basketball, swimming, drama, and robotics. He also stays busy by taking Saturday aeronautics classes as part of the Aviation Career Enrichment program at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field.
Della Spearman is the mother of three children, one a college freshman and two in middle school in the Atlanta area.