TOBIAS Thornton may be small but his big desire to have a disposable income has spawned a neat side hustle.
In January, the six-year-old Wallsend boy began selling herbs from his family's garden, used by his early childhood educator mum Michelle in her family day care centre before she closed it amid COVID-19.
"We started off with chores but he didn't feel he was earning enough so he asked to sell the herbs and set up a stall in front yard selling fresh basil and thyme, rosemary," Michelle says.
When NSW was ravaged by floods, Tobias' school was set-up as a drop off point for The Backpack Venture, which sends school supplies to children affected by the floods in Lismore.
Inspired to help, Tobias sold $150 worth of herbs and bought supplies to support The Backpack Venture.
A resident saw what he had done and gifted him some chilli trees and The Little Entrepreneur was born.
"The business name came because everyone kept calling him that, people would say 'He's such a little entrepreneur', and it stuck," says Michelle.
With an oversupply of chillies, Tobias researched ideas with his parents and decided to make his own gourmet chilli jams and sauces (mild and hot) so as not to waste them.
His palate is developing but he already has a taste for spice: "I like making chilli hot chocolate, and chilli pesto on Jatz," he says.
With the help of his parents and a Thermomix, Tobias makes products upon demand, taking orders on his business Facebook page. His products are also at the Boulevard Coffee Hub in Toronto.
He has a bank account and, says his mum, is driven mostly by a desire to buy toys.
"When he sells a jar, a certain goes into the bank account for the business and the rest he puts into a separate account to save for toys or for holiday money," Michelle says.
"While we are proud of him for every aspect of what he is doing and learning in a business sense, the thing we are most proud of as parents is that he has willingly used his business as a platform to help others."
He's also paid his younger brother for helping him to water and tend the chilli plants.
After Easter, Tobias added chilli chocolates to his range - starting with making chocolate bark and clusters and then eventually making the chilli hot chocolate mix.
Michelle said while her son was "highly motivated" by money, his venture allowed him to enjoy the garden more and indulge in a natural love for math.
"It's been good for him to learn certain things about business - he just wants to make money but it's taught him that you have to invest to make money and you can't keep all the profit," she says.
"He understands that a percentage has to be put away to maintain the business. He does work out what it will cost to make and if I say that we have an order for chilli jam but we don't have an ingredient left, he'll ask me to get it - I feel like his manager."
Michelle and her husband oversee his activities but Tobias "takes responsibility for making the final decisions about his business, including what products are sold and the prices they are sold for."
Tobias has also learnt about kindness and generosity - from the support of the cafe that stocks his product to the kindness of strangers who have donated to his business.
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