If you visited the Eau Claire Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday, July 6, you might have seen an interesting sight: a young man on a black Trek bicycle pulling a large billboard on a bike trailer. That young man was 13-year-old Wesley Paul. The billboard Wesley was pulling on a bike trailer was his very first job with the company he started, Eau Claire Bike Ads, to raise funds for a school trip.
“With school, we have the chance to visit Iceland or Costa Rica,” explained Wesley, who attends Delong Middle School in Eau Claire. “I decided to go to Iceland, and I had to figure out a way to get money for the trip. I’m not old enough to get a work permit yet, so my dad and I were brainstorming ways to earn money.”
“My natural inclination is to start a business, as I’ve been self-employed for some time,” added Wesley’s dad Michael, who helped Wesley get started. Michael owns WIS Container, LLC., a portable storage company that rents and sells shipping containers and storage pods. “I thought this could be a good way for Wesley to try it out and see how it fits him. If he likes it, cool, and if he doesn’t, that’s cool, too.”
Wesley says that so far, he likes it a lot. Through Eau Claire Bike Ads, individuals and businesses pay him by the hour to display their customized billboard at local events like the farmer’s market. If someone stops him to ask a question, Wesley is ready to hand out the company’s business cards, plus his own. Wesley also provides graphic design services if needed, using an online program to create personalized banners for customers.
Not only does this entrepreneurial endeavor enable Wesley to do the things he loves – ride his bike and create art – but it’s helping him earn the $5,000 he’ll need by next summer to go on the trip.
“My first thought was, how would people react?” Wesley said of the initial idea. “After all, you see ads on buses but that’s a lot different than seeing people ride around on bikes. And Saturday was a little bit scary in the beginning… but it was fun! I love to bike, and it was fun slowing down and saying hi to people. If they asked a question or started to talk, I gave them business cards.”
For Wesley’s business to succeed, of course, he needs to attract new customers. To do that, Wesley spends time cold-calling local businesses, often stopping by in person to speak with owners and managers.
“The first cold call was strange. We had to sit there for 10 minutes, not doing anything. We didn't know who they were, or if they were open to the idea," recalled Wesley. "But they were very willing to talk, and thought it was interesting. The last time I went, I visited 3-4 businesses on my own. It was a lot more comfortable."
Wesley hopes to be utilized at events throughout the summer, advertising businesses, grand openings, sales events, special events and campaigns at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, Food Truck Fridays, athletic events, fairs and more.
“In two days, I’ve almost biked a marathon,” said Wesley. “I don’t really like to attract a lot of attention to myself, but I think it’s cool having everyone looking at you.”
Michael and his wife know the life skills Wesley is learning through this experience will be invaluable as he gets older, no matter how long Eau Claire Bike Ads stays in business.
“We hope he learns how to get out of his comfort zone and do something completely different than he has ever done before,” said Michael. “We also hope the venture teaches him the value of hard work. Big goals require extraordinary work ethic. Hopefully, he may start to learn that the most rewarding things in life are those things that are most difficult.”