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Ollies and Ocean Life: Inside the Mind of a 14-Year-Old Founder

Portrait of Lockerboard Founder Carson Kropfl. Surrounding him are illustrations that reflect his business, his passions and his future goals.

In Season 2 of our Homework series, we explore the lives of ordinary teens with not-so-ordinary hobbies. Between part-time jobs and school work, these young founders are also running successful businesses—many before they can even drive a car. 

During a chance encounter, Carson Kropfl pitched his business idea to a Shark Tank executive. He was only seven years old. Four years later, that same executive would tell Carson, “You’re ready for Shark Tank.” His brand, Locker Board—a skateboard that fits in a standard school locker—wowed the show’s investors and landed him a partnership with Sir Richard Branson.

Carson started his business to make money to pay for surf lessons—and to avoid doing chores. That was three years ago. The now 14-year-old has a busy schedule between sports, running his business, and tuning out the haters. Here, he shares his thoughts on keeping oceans clean and seizing every moment.

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About Me

Illustration of a young ethnically ambiguous man holding a mini version of himself, as a metaphor for introducing himself.

Name: Carson Kropfl

Age: 14

My business: Locker Board

Where I live: San Clemente, California

What I do for fun:

Usually, when I have free time, I’m surfing or I’m skating. It’s my freshman year of high school, and I’m starting to do high school football. I’m also trying out for the golf team. I don’t play a lot of video games. I’d rather be active and doing stuff than sitting on the couch.

My favorite travel spot:

New York was super cool but, honestly, probably Mexico. I live pretty close—an hour’s drive from the border. I feel like Mexico is just a cool place to be, because there’s surf everywhere. Every place there to surf is totally unique and I’ve never seen a wave like it before. My manufacturer that assembles my boards is also down there. I go every once in a while to check it out.

TV I’m watching:

I was really into Stranger Things when it came out. I watched every episode. Also Friends. I love Friends. Friends and Parks & Rec are the best shows ever created. I’m really into the ’80s stuff, too.

In a typical week:

I wake up, I have food, I get some work done, and then I go to school, get more work done, do football practice, go surf or skate. Then I come home and I get my homework done. I eat, go to sleep, and then I repeat it. It’s a pretty fun schedule.

Illustration of a young woman juggling cubes with one hand as a metaphor as getting started.

How I started Locker Board:

I was 11 and just going into middle school. My locker was decked out and awesome, but none of my skateboards would fit inside. I just started cutting down skateboards with my dad, trying to fit them in my locker. My parents told me that I had to clean and do chores to pay for my surf contest and surf lessons, but I hate cleaning. I hate cleaning. I asked them if I could try selling locker boards instead.

I first started selling them at my school for $20 a piece. No trucks and wheels, just decks. I made an Instagram account and I posted a video of me riding it to school and putting it in my locker. I woke up the next morning and I went from zero to 300-something followers. It’s pretty crazy how something like that happened overnight. I was kind of like freaking out, scrambling with my mom. We quickly made a website and started selling them.

A cool thing that happened to me was:

We were on a family vacation and a man walked into our elevator wearing a Shark Tank sweatshirt and my dad asked him if he’s been on Shark Tank. He said he was actually an executive producer! Our whole family are big Shark Tank fans, so we’re kind of freaking out. I gave him an elevator pitch for my first business idea [for a tarp surfing product], literally in an elevator. I was seven or eight at the time. He said my company was too small for Shark Tank, but to just follow up. I contacted him every six months and then four years later when I told him about Locker Board, he said that I was ready for Shark Tank.

I went on Shark Tank in 2017. Richard Branson invested $65,000 for 20% of my company. It’s honestly kind of like breathtaking because you see what he’s doing on Instagram and social media, and he’s trying to get people into space. It’s pretty crazy to be able to work with Richard. I’m just blessed.

The best part of running a business is:

Making money. No, I’m kidding. I think just meeting all these unique, cool people that want to hear about what you’re doing. I love traveling and I also love public speaking. I think that’s super fun.

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The hardest part is:

Tuning out all the negative people. There’s definitely people out there who are just mean bullies. I feel like when you’re an entrepreneur, you get a little more of it. I was super worked up about it at first, and then I kind of didn’t care. I tuned in the positivity and hung out with people who supported me.

What my friends think of my business:

It’s like my friends are super supportive, but they don’t understand what I’m doing. They’re like, “What are you doing? I don’t know what you’re talking about. What’s an entrepreneur?”

Illustration of a young black man looking through binoculars at clouds in the shape of his future goals (books/learning, airplane/travelling, microphone/public speaking).

The best thing I learned lately was:

Definitely not in math or English class! From Richard Branson, I learned that, when running a business, you have to delegate and network. That was the biggest thing he taught me.

Something I care about is:

The ocean. It’s a big part of how I am today. I love surfing, and if there was no ocean next to me I don’t think I would be able to do anything I’ve ever done. One dollar from every skateboard I sell goes to Ocean Unite, because they focus on ocean conservation. The ocean’s pretty special to me, and I want to make sure it stays healthy.

Something I’m proud of:

I feel like making it to high school was a pretty big deal, just being able to survive the craziness of school.

My goal for the future is:

Honestly, kind of doing what I’m doing now: be an entrepreneur if it’s Locker Board or something else, a public speaker, an athlete, and an ocean activist, I guess.

Advice I have for other young entrepreneurs is:

Seize the moment. There’s a 50% chance that they’re going to say yes, which is a pretty big number. Never give up, try your hardest, and believe in yourself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. 

Illustrations by Joel Holland