Flashback!!!! To autumn 2016. We interview these youngsters, the future of our city.
Each of the teenagers featured in this article is self-employed, earns money using their own skills, manages their own income, and in some cases, earn more than many adults.
WORDS JENNY RUDD PHOTOS QUINN O’CONNELL
If Hope, Jared, Tom and Rose are anything to go by, the future of our country looks as rosy as their youthful cheeks. Gone are the days when teenagers wanted to get qualified and get out, looking to the big smoke and high-flying executive jobs. This new generation of entrepreneurs have clearly learnt plenty from their parents, many of whom moved here when their children were young, and helped the Bay of Plenty achieve its current status as the highest-performing area in the Regional Economic Scoreboard.
HOPE MCCONNELL, ARTIST, 19
“My earliest memory is my bedroom in Hamilton; my mum had painted the galaxy all over the walls and ceiling. She used to be a professional artist, and has always encouraged me. I have a very close relationship with my mum.
“Much of my work is painting commissioned portraits. People often buy them as gifts and I get lots of work through my Facebook Page. I am working with watercolours at the moment, but use lots of different mediums to get the look a client wants.”
Most of Hope’s portraits are on A4-sized paper. Her work rate is exemplary. Every time I visited her she had fresh work up in her work space. There is an ordered uniformity to the presentation of her work and her range of skill is incredible, I thought some of the work she showed me belonged to other artists, they were so varied.
“As well as the portraits I have two other ventures on the go; a website which should go live in April – it’s called TwoBrokeDesigners – and will feature young designers on the blog and insights into student-design life. We’ll sell prints and artwork on there by little-known artists and designers.
“The other project is designing a range of t-shirts. My parents have fostered in us a desire to strive for excellence and help others. We have a family rule to set goals to raise money for different charities that we all choose together. The proceeds from the t-shirts will go to young girls trapped in sex slavery.”
At the age of ten, Hope moved to Tauranga with her brother, sister and parents. “I was close to my textiles teacher who encouraged me to enter the Young Designer Awards. I made a rainbow dress and was placed second, so was invited to fly to Christchurch with my mum. We stayed in a hotel together, went on tours and rode trams. It was incredibly glamorous and adventurous for a ten-year-old from the Waikato.”
Hope’s work ethic is enough to make me slightly embarrassed about my own. At 13, she entered a fashion-stylist competition in Girlfriend magazine. “We had to send in a mood board of our fashion ideas as the entry. I was selected as one of four finalists round the country and was given Bayfair vouchers to spend each month and compile different looks. Because I was so young, my mum took me to Bayfair and helped me photograph the looks for the magazine.
“I was selected as the competition winner by Girlfriend readers. It was one of the most exciting achievements in my childhood and the team at Girlfriend were really supportive, offering me opportunities in styling. I wasn’t old enough then to decide on what I wanted to do, but I know now how to forge a creative career for myself, and I’m loving every bit of it.”
JARED SHAW, YOUTUBE BROADCASTER, 17
Jared has two YouTube channels: The Big 10 and The Gamer’s Joint. From his home in Papamoa he shares with his mum and step-father, these two channels have been watched 46 million times. Yes, 46 million. I bet you’ve stopped reading and reached for your phone to check him out.
The Big 10 features list videos, the most popular being ten extremely strange body modifications which has attracted seven million views (only watch that one if you have a fairly solid constitution). His real passion, and the channel he has spent most time developing is The Gamer’s Joint, which is devoted almost entirely to the study of one video game: Kingdom Hearts.
“When I started my channel in 2010, there were a few others around reviewing Kingdom Hearts, but none were particularly big. For the first few years, uploading videos on my channel was just a hobby but by 2014, it really started to kick off and my subscriber base was growing steadily.
The Gamer’s Joint’s popularity is down to two things: consistency (Jared works 10am to 8pm every weekday and uploads two videos per day to The Gamers Joint), and personality.
“There’s lots of planning involved with each video, and I usually do it a day or two in advance: I mix things up with a couple of comedy skits, live streaming, analysis, reviews and revealing hidden info inside the game. I’m known for losing my shit and raging at the game. Each video needs to be planned, researched, the script written and recorded, then edited and uploaded.
“Just before I started to do this full time, I went to a gamer’s convention in Boston where I chatted to different networks and channel owners. It is possible to self-monetise your channel, but there are bigger benefits in signing up with a network; you earn money each time a video is watched, and networks have lots of information and help on how to increase your number of views and can help with copyright issues.
“I already had a contract with TGN before the convention, but they offered me a better deal and I became one of their VIP channels. My income increased immediately and on my return, I decided I wanted to leave school to concentrate solely on my YouTube channels.
“I had to pitch it to my mum – it’s not easy trying to convince your mum that leaving school to play video games professionally is a good idea, but I have my NCLA Level 2 already, so if it didn’t work out, I could still go to university. I think she was surprised when I showed her how much I was earning from YouTube. I treat it as a business – I have an accountant, as I’m paid in US dollars, and I want to make sure all my tax is in order and that I’m saving.”
The success of Jared’s gaming channel has far exceeded any of his peers who also review Kingdom Hearts. He has about 125,000 subscribers, which puts him in the top rankings of gaming channels in New Zealand.
“It’s hard to know what you want to do at our age, we are often asked what we’ll do in the future, but how can you make a decision with no insight? I’m extremely lucky to love my job so much at my age. It doesn’t feel like a job at all, it just feels like fun.”
TOM HOFFART, KNIFE-SHARPENER AND TOOL REFURBISHER, 13
Learning a trade seems old school in a digital world, and Tom’s trade dates back to, well, about two and a half million years. “I have always loved knives. I got my first when I was three from a family friend. That same friend gave me a machete when I turned nine. Each time I got a knife, I got a box of plasters.”
Tom offers a knife-sharpening service with delivery. “If a client lives close by, I’ll cycle to their house to pick up and deliver their knives or tools. If it’s any further, we arrange a central point in town to meet.”
“I started my business because I’ve always loved making and refurbishing old tools and knives, and I have an excellent workshop at home with equipment I have bought and been kindly given by my uncle in Matamata. He and my grandfather taught me some good knife sharpening skills too.
“At the moment I am reinvesting most of the money back into the business to buy better equipment. My Facebook page and newly purchased cell phone have significantly increased my customer base and workload.
“I keep a ledger to record my income and expenses, and have spoken to the tax office – there are some generous tax brackets for school pupils. I love my work – I have never seen myself working in an office when I’m older.”
“A few months ago I went to buy a knife I’ve had my eye on for a while. My mum said ‘Why do you need another knife? You already have so many.’ I replied, ‘I could ask you the same question about shoes’.”
ROSE MCMAHON, 15, PHOTOGRAPHER
There is no doubt that Rose’s homeschooling has been a huge contributor to her incredible success as a professional photographer.
“I got into photography about three years ago. A family friend lent me her camera for the winter, while the wedding season was quiet. When the time came to return it, I asked her how much it cost so I could get one myself. $5,000. I thought my world would end. I cried myself to sleep.
“I thought, ‘I’m not having this,’ and looked around online until I found something similar second hand. It was still way out of a 12 year old’s reach, so I rang the seller. He was a professional photographer who’d started at eight years old. He gave me a discount, so I gathered all my Christmas and birthday money, both past and future, and bought it.
“At the beginning, I offered to take photos for free. I did the Zespri Head Office Christmas party, which led to paid work; I have photographed weddings and portraits for people at the party. I have now shot in every major wedding venue in the Bay of Plenty.”
As well as using her own initiative and hard work to learn her craft, including building a website, marketing her work and managing her administration, she has sought out guidance from other well established photographers.
“A couple of years ago, I found it very difficult taking pictures of people as I didn’t have enough confidence telling groups of adults what to do. Maree Wilkinson, one of the Bay’s top wedding photographers, took me with her on photo shoots and showed me how to get over that stumbling block.
“It’s useful being young when running your own business. You have much less fear than adults. I don’t worry so much about things going wrong, I just work out how to fix them myself. And because I’m homeschooled I can spend lots of time practising and improving.
Rose is in hot demand and is well-respected by her peers; our photographer for this shoot, Quinn O’Connell, borrowed one of her lenses and talked shop with her throughout. The girl can certainly hold her own. And she is ambitious.
“The biggest job I’ve had so far is a stills photographer on a movie, recording what’s going on behind the scenes. In fact, I’ve just been approached to do the same job on another movie. I’d like to get into directing movies so it’s been a great opportunity.
“Although there are lots of perks to being a teenager in an adult industry – people are extremely generous-spirited towards me – there are downsides too. I have to pay someone to drive me to my jobs until I’m old enough to legally drive.”