Sloths and Shiny Things: Inside the Mind of a 10-Year-Old Founder

Portrait of 9 year old founder Riley Kinnane-Petersen of the jewellery and apparel line Gunner and Lux. Surrounding Riley are illustrations that reflect her business, her hobbies, and her inspiration.

In this series, we explore the lives of ordinary kids with not-so-ordinary hobbies. Between soccer practice and school work and swimming lessons, these youngsters are also running successful businesses—(sometimes) with a bit of grown-up help. We asked these remarkable kids to take time from their busy schedules to complete an extra homework assignment. These are their stories, in their words.


Meet Riley. Her kids’ jewelry brand has caught the attention of some of the biggest retailers in the US—and she’s only 10. When she was much smaller and became interested in playing dress-up, her two dads canvassed friends and family for cast-off necklaces. But Riley put her own spin on the pieces, taking them apart, and designing her own.

Riley upped her lemonade stand game—an annual tradition—by adding some of her creations to her table. When her dad, John, posted photos to his Instagram, his followers asked where they could buy her necklaces. So he set up a website. Four years later, Riley’s still head of design, but she now has staff helping her make jewelry and fulfill orders from the likes of Barney’s and J.Crew. That leaves Riley with plenty of time to swim and read and to, well, just be a kid.

About Me

 

Illustration of a young boy wearing blue and a young girl wearing red, drawing themselves.

 

Name: Riley Kinnane-Petersen

Age: 10

My business: Gunner & Lux

Where I live: Atlanta, Georgia

What I did today:

Homework. So we get it on Monday. And then we have different sections, and I usually do it all at the same time, so that I can have my weekends free.

What I’m feeling:

Right now, I’m just feeling happy.

What I do for fun:

I play tennis and next week I start swimming again.

 

Illustration of a young girl rolling out a carpet that is a winding road.

A little bit about my business:

The main thing is kids’ necklaces. I also sell T-shirts.

How I got started:

When I was a little kid, 5, I used to, like, piece little pieces of shiny stuff together, and I would wear them. Then I started making necklaces for my lemonade stand. Then Dad created a little website and put them on there. And then they were sold, and it just worked from there. Then, Barney’s called.

What inspires my jewelry:

I get pretty inspired by the zoo. And I love the ocean, so that often inspires me.

When people started buying my necklaces, I felt:

Happy to know that people were buying my stuff, and liking it. Especially because of how young I was back then.

The hardest part of running my business:

So we have this one necklace that we sometimes sell. And it has this feather, and you put 100 beads on it. It’s exhausting.

How Dad helps me with my business:

I usually plan everything the night before, and then write it down, and then I tell my Dad to tell everyone that works for me. And that’s really all.

Something I’m really proud of is:

How many stores I’ve gotten into, at such a young age.

The number of stores that sell my jewelry is: 

500

 Illustration of a young girl with brown hair climbing the clouds as though they are stairs to convey the idea of reaching her future goals.

 

When I grow up, I want to:

Continue my business. But if not, then I might become a chemist. Or a vet.

My favorite subject in school is:

Science.

Something else I like about school is:

Reading. A lot.

What I like to read:

One of my favorite books that I’ve read lately is The Girl Who Drank the Moon. And after that, I think it’s Wind of Fire. These are from my book club.

Somewhere I traveled recently was:

Costa Rica. It was pretty fun. The nicest thing was seeing all the animals, seeing a ton of spider monkeys.

One cool thing I learned this week was:

All sloths are actually really pleasant. And also, change all your passwords.

Illustrations by João Fazenda

Photography by Mallie Taylor