Written by Allison van Tilborgh
Seminole State College
I moved to the United States when I was 6 years old. Born to a missionary family, I was born in the Netherlands and moved to South Africa when I was 4. In South Africa we were deeply involved in the ministry, ministering, feeding, and clothing an African village near where we lived.
Now, why does that matter?
Well, one morning I woke up and my parents told me that we were moving to the United States. In 3 days. That was quite a shock for me. To put this in perspective, I only knew the alphabet letters A-F since I got withdrawn part way through Kindergarten. When we got to the United States we had nothing but a few suitcases and a spare room with my Grandparents who happened to plan their retirement in Florida. With nothing but experience in sales, my dad begun his own marketing/web site business.
I was truly inspired when I was in elementary school seeing my dad push limitations. As the daughter of a new business owner, I began producing entrepreneurial blood. Starting at the age of 8, I began making small little business – a foot massage one (Allison’s Nail Company), a duct tape one (The Blue Duck), even a ‘custom puzzle’ company (M.A.L. Puzzles) amongst many others. Somehow, I found my love for business in rubbing my grandpa’s feet for 30 minutes. The ‘treatment’ was worth $1.25. Between each of my jobs, I found myself making near to $150 a month which was a lot for an elementary student. I learned the concepts on reinvestment (buying better, higher quality supplies), branding (by stumbling through photoshop and creating logos that’d I’d print as letterhead on my ‘menus’) and sales (sometimes going door to door or teacher to teacher).
In Middle School, I decided I wanted to be homeschooled to focus on business and have freedom to travel to visit my family in the Netherlands. After those 3 years was up, I was ready to acquire more skills and challenge myself once again. This time, it meant going to an Information Technology Magnet school and emphasizing my course load with all the coding classes I could handle. As the same time, I was working toward my Associates in Arts in Information Technology (which as a Senior, I will earn).
At 15, my dad struck a deal with a man named Ryan Frank in Indiana who was involved in kids ministry. It made sense to build a products with him since we had previous experience in ministry. After years of web design, my dad realized that websites don’t work in order to make sales. He shifted his whole company to marketing and product development. After a few month’s of bouncing ideas of each other they collectively came up with the idea of Kidmin Academy, a 12-month educational training program for children’s pastors. It was just a skeleton though without any technical infrastructure or course syllabus.
It didn’t take long before my dad turned to me and said, “Allison, make this happen.”
Back in those days, his company was very small. I had recently gotten more involved with the business, but was still all very fresh. Between our team and Ryan Frank’s team there were probably 6 employees. With the expectation of getting 50 students in the program, I designed a website to post content, a syllabus, and some simple code that would restrict access to some and provide it for others. In 40 days, we had 400 students and between this small team, we had made nearly $500,000. For a 15 year old, the pressure was on.
I ran that program the entire 12 months as it’s sole technical support agent, web master, copywriter and email broadcaster. I began suggesting new products and trained to become a face-figure for my dad and Ryan Frank, representing them at various events across the country. Something that was just as idea back in 2015 became flesh, and it was wildly successful. In November of 2017, as I write this, we have just begun our 5th class of our program (6 month enrollment periods), and have over 1200 students between our Alumni and current classes. Our team has grown from 6 to perhaps 25.