The pandemic was tough on some teenagers. Stuck at home, they stalled academically, socially and emotionally.
Others took the lockdown lemon, and made lemonade.
Or — in the case of Aiden Schachter — they made LED lightclouds. And built a thriving, national business.
In the spring of 2020 he was a Bedford Middle School 8th grader, spending more time than usual in his room.
LED light strips — the wireless bedroom decoration that changes colors and looks cool — were hot. Aiden took a stuffed, falling-apart penguin, and created a prototype.
Today, he says, it looks like “a piece of junk: a stuffed animal in a ball.” But to his 8th grade eyes, it was impressive.
He made a few more. His aunt bought one. Aiden wondered if he could sell to non-relatives.
He thought about eBay. But Etsy — the homemade-and-craft site — seemed more appropriate.
At that point, you or I might simply have made a few LED light strips, taken quick photos, and posted them on Etsy.
But you and I are not Aiden Schachter.
The young teenager conducted market research. He watched videos. He read articles. He learned how to sell online.
His first ads were “not very descriptive,” he admits. But quickly, he discovered how to engage potential customers.
He tailored his ads to a variety of platforms: Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Google.
Studying Etsy’s analytics to find out who was buying, he crafted different ads for different niches — “dorm room décor,” say, and “baby gifts.”
Aiden learned photographic techniques too. He’s taken 2 courses at Staples, to hone his skills.
Aiden’s mother taught him how to use spreadsheets, to pay taxes.
He was selling enough to make serious money. The 2020 holidays were a breakout period: 123 orders. With a wide price range — $60 to $180 — appealing to a wide range of customer, his product took off.
Aiden works hard. Each LED cloud light takes 20 to 40 minutes to make; each is made to oder.
He uses recycled tin cans (sourced on the Nextdoor neighborhood app), attached with spray adhesives.
Everything except the cans comes from his Amazon business account. “I’m a big fan of 2-day shipping,” Aiden says. “And Prime Day is huge.”
The rising Staples High School junior handles every aspect of his business. After making what he calls Stormclouds, he has to package and ship them.
Aiden moved from using old Amazon boxes to ordering cardboard boxes in bulk. He invested in a label printer, which helped a lot. Now, he seals each box with custom tape, bearing his logo.
Aiden’s lessons included customer service. Etsy is a person-to-person site. “I’m a teenager. I’m always on my phone,” he notes. “I can respond instantly to everyone.”
Not that customers know they’re dealing with a high school student.
An early review said, “it looks like a teenager made this.” Aiden laughs, “Well, yeah, I’m a kid in my parents’ basement making it.”
Now though, his average rating is 4.9 stars (out of 5) — with over 100 reviews.
Other lessons came through the process of incorporating (via LegalZoom) with the state of Connecticut. His LLC is LEDCloudLight.com.
“As a 16-year-old, I struggled to learn tax and legal stuff,” he notes. (Welcome to the club.)
There’s more ahead. Aiden has just been accepted into the Westport Young Woman’s League’s indoor craft fair (November 5-6, at Staples High). That’s a big deal: It’s the longest running event of its kind in Connecticut, and extremely tough to break into.
In addition to his usual holiday sales, Aiden will make plenty of money at the fair. But he’s as philanthropic-minded as he is creative.
Last year, he donated $500 to combat climate change — a gift that was tripled by the Climate Reality Project.
He’s donated Cloudlights for charitable raffles, and is looking for more local organizations to partner with.
Aiden’s numbers are impressive. He’s sold 312 lights this year, up substantially from 219 in 2021. Orders have come from all 50 states.
He’s serious about what he does. He’s spent 6 to 7 hours a day at his business this summer. During the school year, it’s 2 to 3 hours.
Yet as impressive as this is, it’s not all that Aiden does.
He’s also a Staples High School wrestler. That’s an incredibly demanding sport, physically and mentally.
But there’s even more to Aiden’s story.
Long before he got involved in LED lights, he wanted to fly. Now, in addition to making Cloudlights, he’s soaring — literally — into the clouds.
From a flight simulator in 7th grade, he’s advanced to lessons. On his 16th birthday in March, he soloed.
Aiden has flown — by himself — from Stratford’s Sikorsky Airport to Groton and Poughkeepsie. His goals are to get his full pilot’s license at 17 — and eventually, fly commercially.
Back on earth, Aiden is working on Cloudlights enhancements. He’s developed lights that can be controlled by Alexa and Google Home. (They’re already controlled through an app.)
He’s also building up stock for the craft fair. And training for the upcoming wrestling season.
Aiden Schachter has a lot to look forward to. Thanks to him, kids and parents all over America have a lot to look up to, as well.
(For Aiden’s Etsy page, click here.)
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