Not Bad for Starters
Opelika teen Taylor Rosenthal’s first venture turned a school project into a multimillion-dollar business.
Take a moment and think back to your early teens. What filled your days back then — school, sports, TV, video games?
For Opelika entrepreneur extraordinaire Taylor Rosenthal it is all that and more, like creating a multimillion-dollar company in the eighth grade.
Media outlets worldwide picked up the story in early 2015 when Rosenthal, 14 at the time, turned down a $30 million buyout offer for his company, RecMed First Aid Kits, and its products.
Rosenthal was listed in Inc. Magazine’s 2015 “20 Teenage Entrepreneurs Set for Success” and asked to appear on national TV and radio shows. Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller declared a Taylor Rosenthal Day.
RecMed First Aid Kits started in 2014 as a class project in the Opelika Middle School’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a partnership among the school, the city of Opelika and the national Chambers of Commerce.
It was a serendipitous route to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Quite by accident did Rosenthal — who at the time had no interest in entrepreneurship — end up in that class.
“Funny story,” begins Rosenthal, now 15 and in 10th grade at Opelika High School. “I wasn’t even supposed to be in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The class I signed up for was full, so I was just going to take PE. But I had friends in the (academy), so I thought I’d take it. I’m glad I did.”
Two weeks into the class Rosenthal began to develop an interest in starting a business. When asked what motivated him, he says it was “being able to say I own my own business at the age of 13.”
RecMed is designed to offer first aid equipment in computerized and robotic vending machines. Kits contain everything needed to address minor injuries that can happen at such places as sporting events and amusement parks. Six Flags placed an order for 100 machines.
Some common first aid supplies are also available individually in the vending machines. Kits sell for $5.99 to $15.95 and individual items $6 to $20.
His 10 years playing baseball sparked the idea for the business, says Rosenthal, who has raised $100,000 from angel investors.
“When the players got hurt, they couldn’t even find a Band-Aid,” he recalls.
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy class ends with students pitching their startup in a competition. The first place winner goes on to the regional competition, which Rosenthal did. Kyle Sandler, founder of Round House — a business incubator and co-working space in Opelika — was one of the mentors at the competition.
The original idea for the company was to develop pop-up medical shops that would be put up at sporting events to sell first aid supplies. With this plan, Rosenthal would have needed to hire people to sell the supplies, which would eat into his profits. So the idea of selling the first aid equipment in vending machines was born.
Rosenthal began working out of Round House in December 2014 and continues to put in about 20 hours a week on his business. Polite and soft-spoken — the type of young person taught to address his elders “sir” and “ma’am” — his idea of fun is hanging out at the Round House with his mentors and fellow entrepreneurs.
Sandler, who serves as Rosenthal’s business mentor, has said that he must remind Rosenthal to go home in the evenings and even had to send him home on Christmas Eve and other holidays.
Says Rosenthal’s father Terry: “He’s always been very driven and focused, even at a very young age. No matter if it’s school, sports or video games, Taylor is very meticulous with everything he does. I have an MBA, and I saw signs early on that he had a business sense.”
Having parents in the medical field also factored into his business plan. Terry is administrator for the Orthopedic Clinic, a large practice with offices in Opelika and Auburn. His mother, Susan, works as an X-ray technician. The couple also has a daughter, Marissa, age 9.
Terry says interest in RecMed has increased since a major health care company’s $30 million offer was turned down. The asking price is now $50 million.
At the time when he rejected the initial $30 million offer, Rosenthal told Fox Business that he felt the time wasn’t right and he wanted to “grow and develop the company a little bit more.”
Rosenthal filed a provisional patent in 2015, and the final patent is pending approval.
“We have had interest from a number of different venues including a hotel chain,” says Terry. Due to non-disclosure agreements, he cannot discuss any pending contracts or any offers that have been rejected.
Rosenthal has presented at several major events since the Young Entrepreneurs Academy competitions. He took second place at the 2016 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Techstars Lifestyle and Digital Health startup pitch competition in Las Vegas. Also this year he presented at TechCrunch Disrupt in Brooklyn and is said to be the youngest entrepreneur ever to present at the annual startup conference.
Rosenthal would like to attend the University of Notre Dame because of its esteemed business program and sports teams, which stands to reason, since his favorite pursuits are business and playing and watching sports.
When asked to name his hobbies, he first mentions RecMed. It’s clear that for Rosenthal the line between work and play is blurred, at least where RecMed is concerned. But after all, a key to success is thoroughly enjoying what you do.
Among today’s entrepreneurs his favorite is Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman and investor who owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and is a judge on the popular reality show “Shark Tank,” where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas.
Rosenthal would like to start another business venture in the coming years, perhaps while a student at Notre Dame. Though he has no idea what his next startup will be, he is certain it will be in the medical field.
Once RecMed is sold, top on his splurge list is a Bentley, one of those handcrafted British luxury cars with price tags starting at $180,000. Never mind that he might be too young to drive it himself. Rosenthal also wants to mentor other rookie entrepreneurs and offers some simple, straightforward advice to future tycoons.
“Just remember that you’re never too young to start, and don’t ever give up. Half of the kids at the regionals told me my idea stunk, but I didn’t listen to them. There were lots of times when I wanted to quit, but my parents and mentors told me to keep going and I’m glad they did.”
Jessica Armstrong and Julie Lowry are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Armstrong is based in Auburn and Lowry in Montgomery.