The Kingsway School student enjoys all the normal activities for someone his age, like football, building Lego and playing Minecraft. However, he is also the founder and host of the Ground Breaking Podcast, which features interviews with the next generation of young entrepreneurs who are building businesses that create an impact in the world. So far, he counts Weirdly’s Dale Clareburt, PledgeMe’s Anna Guenther and Halter’s Craig Piggott among guests that have appeared on the show.
He says the idea was born when he was discussing ways he could make money with his Dad, who suggested starting his own business could help with that. But he soon found that online business content wasn’t all that helpful for someone his age.
“I did not know a lot about running my own business, and I started to think about how I could learn as much as possible,” Smit says.
“I watched some YouTube videos, but the content was all for older people. I spoke to Dad and he suggested the idea of a podcast. I had no idea what a podcast was, but after Dad explained it to me I was all in. Essentially you just record a conversation you have with people and I could do that, I like talking to everyone and if this would help me talk to people who already have a business all the better.”
After purchasing a mic and approaching a few business owners to interview through LinkedIn, Smit got his podcast up-and-running. Since launching in June this year, he has since interviewed 15 entrepreneurs and counting in New Zealand, Australia and the US, and has also successfully gotten it hosted on Spotify and exclusive invite-only platform Acast.
Smit says while originally he set out on this journey in order to learn how to make money, he’s discovered he’s being motivated by something deeper than material wealth.
“I think I am learning that it’s probably not the money itself, but the choices money gives me that drives me – choices about every aspect of my life, including the impact I can make on the people I love and the issues that are important to me like the environment or charities like Ronald McDonald House Charities,” Smit says.
He says he’s incredibly grateful to the entrepreneurs he’s interviewed who have shared their learnings with him.
“Craig Piggott from Halter exploded my mind with the agritech world he is in with special collars for cows, or Deanna Yang and the Cookie empire she is building, or Chloe van Dyke and the innovation she is bringing to the beverage industry. I’m realising just how endless the opportunities are out there for those willing to give it a go,” Smit says.
Deanna Yang and Eli Smit
“I love telling their stories and I really hope my podcast inspires and challenges others as much as it does me to think about what is possible.”
And now, he’s using the gleanings from his podcast to pursue his own entrepreneurial endeavours. Smit recently launched a social enterprise business called Get Mowed, which has partnered with Trees That Count to plant a native New Zealand tree for every lawn that’s mowed.
“New Zealand needs more trees to impact climate change and help restore our natural environment,” Smit says. “This enables everyone in my community to be part of New Zealand’s sustainable future.”
He says getting his first company, Get Mowed, off the ground is his biggest achievement so far.
“It is one thing to talk about entrepreneurship on my podcast, and it’s another to be an entrepreneur and get some customers across the line.”
But this might be his first in a line of businesses, as there’s plenty of other ideas bubbling away, too, such as plans to start an organic lemonade business.
Smit says despite all of these achievements so far, he doesn’t feel as though he’s that different from other kids his age.
“I don’t know that I feel like I am different, what I am doing just feels normal.”
As for what the immediate future has in store, Smit is currently saving his pocket money and business earnings to visit a friend in the US, attend a podcasting conference and possibly conduct some interviews while he’s over there.
I’m nine, and I understand not everyone thinks a nine-year-old can run a business or be taken seriously, but I can’t live my life based on their narrow thinking. I look at how many kids out there are already running significant businesses and I am keen to be a part of the action.
He’s also recently connected with three US-based podcasts – David Meltzer (The Playbook Podcast), Jordan Harbinger (The Jordan Harbinger Show) and Stephen Gates (The Crazy One Podcast) – who all have significant followings and is going to see what he can learn from them about the podcast industry.
Smit says hopefully, the Ground Breaking Podcast will be securing its first sponsor or advertiser this year.
As for what the most valuable learning he’s taken away from his interviews is, he says it’s being confident in your abilities.
“I remember Deanna Yang talked to me about believing in yourself,” Smit says.
“There were some people who didn’t believe in her dream to run her own milk and cookie bar, but she didn’t let that stop her. I’m nine, I understand not everyone thinks a nine-year-old can run a business or be taken seriously, but I can’t live my life based on their narrow thinking. I look at how many kids out there are already running significant businesses and I am keen to be a part of the action.”
And his other key bit of advice for budding entrepreneurs?
“Knock on doors and eventually one will open,” he says.
- Keep an eye out for season two of Smit's Ground Breaking Podcast, which will be launching next week on Idealog.
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