Dylan Fryer is stretching his entrepreneurial chops and testing his design skills by making and selling colorful beads under his own company, Creations 4 Wildlife.
The name comes from a desire to help the world's most threatened species.
The 12-year-old Newport Beach resident won't reveal any costs related to his venture, though he hinted in a recent interview at a decent profit margin. But he is quick to emphasize that he has raised more than $3,500 for wildlife conservation.
"I love all animals," Dylan said. "After visits to the San Diego Zoo and learning that these species are going extinct, I wanted to help."
Since founding the company last fall, Dylan and his mother, Michelle, have come up with 11 bracelet styles that support conservation of lemurs, red pandas, giraffes, tigers, rhinos, elephants and, most recently, pangolins, often referred to as scaly anteaters.
The latest installment, the Pangolin Passion bracelet, supports WildAid, an environmental organization whose mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade.
Each bead is selected to evoke in some way the animal and its habitat. The beads are then attached to a bracelet thread or waxed string. Dylan said no leather or animal products are used.
With the Pangolin Passion bracelet, the Chinese rainbow jasper is supposed to symbolize the large, hardened plate-like scales of the mammal.
The green unakite stone is intended to represent the pangolin's tree habitat, and the silver-plated lentil bead represents the animal's armor. The pangolin curls up in a ball when threatened by predators.
Pangolins species live in Africa and Asia. They are threatened by hunting, particularly for the animals' meat and armor, and heavy deforestation.
The Crash of Rhinos bracelets, which benefit the International Rhino Foundation, started after Dylan learned about the slaughter of rhinos in South Africa for their horns.
The bracelet features multi-colored stones representing the five remaining species of rhino.
The recently formed for-profit company sold more than 120 bracelets around the holidays. They start at $20.
Dylan is the founder of the company. Michelle functions as the director, overseeing daily operations including social media, financial aspects and shipping. They join together on the marketing.
Many of the bracelets have been sold to Dylan's classmates at Corona del Mar Middle School, where he is a student. He and his mother have also received orders from around the nation and have a repeat customer in Canada, they say.
Learning about animals has been Dylan's interest since he was 6.
Instead of having a birthday party or receiving presents when he turned 9, Dylan chose to raise $1,000 to help build the Tiger Trail exhibit at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
For his donation, Dylan's name is on a plaque at the Safari Park.
"Having my name there, it's like an aha moment when I see it," Dylan said.
Rick Schwartz, an ambassador for San Diego Zoo Global, the not-for-profit organization that operates the zoo and Safari Park, became a mentor to Dylan when Schwartz shared information about the animals and plants of the two locations. The two met at the zoo in 2012.
"His philanthropy is a model for all youth and families," Schwartz said. "Dylan has these great ideas, but it wouldn't be without the support of his mom, Michelle. Hats off to his passion and to his mom for encouraging him. The two of them have quite the power when they put their minds together."
Dylan, whose favorite subject is science, said that when he goes to college, his mother can take over the business. He said he would become a zookeeper at San Diego Zoo, working his way up as a curator of mammals or possibly a global ambassador like Schwartz.
His short-term goal is making it to the Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco this October. The expo, sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Network, will include guest speakers on wildlife conservationist.
His long-term goal is to travel to Africa and Asia to see the animals that he and his mother are trying to save in the wild, particularly the mountain gorilla.
As of September last year, the estimated number of gorillas remaining is less than 900, experts say.
"It's a good feeling that the product has been received well," Michelle said. "Realizing that a 12-year-old is making an impact — that's amazing."