The INSIDER Summary:
- Last fall, 17-year-olds Allan Maman and Cooper Weiss began selling 3D-printed fidget spinners in their high school.
- Six months later, they had built an empire, gained a famous mentor, and made $350,000.
- Along the way, Maman and Weiss had to give up their social lives and grades and risked getting suspended from their high school.
- Their advice for young entrepreneurs? Persevere, put in the hustle, and embrace failure at a young age.
In the past year, 17-year-olds Allan Maman and Cooper Weiss have built a company from the ground up, risked getting suspended from school, and made roughly $350,000 in the process.
It all started with a 3D printer in their high school’s science lab and a little something called the fidget spinner.
Back in the fall, Maman — then a senior at Byram Hills High School in Armonk, New York — was browsing the internet for something to help his ADHD. He came across the Fidget Cube on Kickstarter, a “desk toy for people who like to fidget” that had raised over $6 million. The only catch? It wouldn’t ship for another six months.
Curious, Maman found alternatives on sites like Etsy where individual people and shops were selling 3D-printed fidget spinners. But he couldn’t find a company that mass-produced them. “I saw that my school had a 3D printer,” Maman told INSIDER, “so I was like, ‘I could probably do this myself.'”
Maman teamed up with his classmate and friend Cooper Weiss, who he’d worked with before to create Nito, an app designed to help students get an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at prospective colleges.
The two started experimenting in their high school’s science lab, using a 3D printer to make fidget spinners. Almost immediately, their spinners took off: First the “cool kids” bought one and then, everyone else did. Before long, Maman and Weiss were making around $500 every day selling their fidget spinners for $25 each.
But when their high school threatened to suspend them — allegedly for using school property to make a profit — the two moved their business to the basement of Weiss’ parents’ house.
Operating on the hunch that their spinners would explode if they took them online and mass-marketed them, Maman and Weiss bought eight 3D printers, created an Instagram account, and started selling their spinners on Shopify — officially launching their company, Fidget360.
For about three months, Maman and Weiss worked until midnight or later, improving their company and creating new designs. “We didn’t go out, we didn’t have a social life, grades were terrible, we just non-stop worked,” Maman said.
Their hustle paid off. Fidget360 soon caught the attention of Gerard Adams, the founder of both “Elite Daily” and a startup accelerator called Fownders. Adams, who is now Maman and Weiss’ mentor, provided enough funding that the two could expand their business once again — this time, to a factory in Brooklyn, NY.
It was a game-changing move, to say the least.
Within six months, Maman and Weiss grew their company to around 30 part-time employees (all students aged 14 to 18 years old), amassed over 160,000 followers on Instagram, nabbed a deal that put 300,000 spinners in Walmarts across the country, and made about $350,000 — all before the end of their senior year.
Until very recently, no one knew what a fidget spinner was, although variations of a “spinning toy” have existed as early as the ’90s. So perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Fidget360’s success is how it helped the spinner go viral.
“Without social media, I don’t really know where we’d be right now,” Weiss told INSIDER, “99% of our sales are from Instagram.” When asked why he and Maman focused mostly on Instagram, compared to Facebook or Snapchat, Weiss added, “Us being teens, we use Instagram the most, and we know what all the other kids are using.”
In fact, when they experimented with ads on Facebook, they had a hard time reaching their target demographic. “It was mostly parents commenting on our stuff, ” Weiss said. On Instagram, however, he and Maman could link kids directly to the Fidget360 website by paying influencers and popular meme pages to do shout-outs.