Does a 10-Year-Old CEO Violate Child Labor Laws?

A 10-year-old CEO might seem like the start to a bad movie or some kind of joke, but to one family in Michigan, it is very real, indeed. Their daughter, Hannah Altman, is the founder and CEO of Hannah's Cool World, on online distributor of pencil toppers they call "squishies."

It's weird, of course, but if a 10-year-old is going to be a CEO, it kind of makes sense that she would be the CEO of a company that sells pencil toppers. After all, fifth grade is all about things that are bright, sparkly and can be easily traded.

The company has 12,000 registered customers across the globe, according to AOL. In 2009, the year it launched, the website sold more than 250,000 "squishies." And Hannah Altman is too young to even go to the toy fair! But is it all too much, too soon?



She is certainly not alone. Hannah's Cool World is part of the family business -- IBeOn -- the $500,000 company Hannah's parents, Rick and Lauren, started in 2007. Hannah's Cool World is just one division of that, but it is all Hannah's. She estimates she spends about 5 hours a week on CEO business, which basically involves Internet surfing to find new and exciting pencil toppers that they can then sell to their customers.

With the money, her parents insist she save and keep it for various things, including college. Still, it does seem a bit odd that a 10-year-old would be running her own business. If we believe that she is only working five hours a week (one hour each day after school) and it is only on web surfing, well then fine. But my guess is that is an underestimation of the real time she spends.

And while it is great that she has such an entrepreneurial spirit at such a young age, what happens when she outgrows pencil toppers? That will maybe interest her for another year or two if they are lucky, but at some point, she is going to be done and ready to move on and hopefully, at that point, her parents will let her.

It is also curious that the whole thing is now her parent's livelihood. Obviously they have their own grown-up umbrella company that owns Hannah's Cool World, but aren't child labor laws in place for a reason? Maybe someone else should serve as CEO while Hannah heads up the research team.

Children are fickle. They should be allowed to explore and grow and learn and fail and play. It is hard to imagine that she has all those things while she is also running a small company. The concept is cool and it is great that she is making money she can save for college by doing something that interests her, but putting a 10-year-old to work just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

What do you think of a 10-year-old CEO?


Image via By apdk/Flickr



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