MILWAUKEE — Let's face it when you check out a website for local business, you don't really expect to see a 12-year-old CEO.
"I pretty much am the one-man shop I design all my cards from photography or art," shares John Daniels the IV of Mequon.
Daniels oversees his business "Pontem MKE". He explains the name of his company.
"The content is focused on building bridges through creativity. My mom told me to look up the Latin word for bridge. I did and that's how I found Pontem. I strive to be a bridge-builder through creative skills."
Daniels sells and designs custom cards and stationery.
"I take the photography mostly myself, and I edit them to make them into a piece of art."
"I have been able to do some orders from Wisconsin, Illinois, all the way to Texas and Florida," shares the middle schooler.
Daniels parents clearly invest in their son. He says, "I think the biggest lesson they've taught me is to strive for excellence and know that nothing's impossible. If I put the work in and if I continue to keep working in school and managing my time, I can be the best I can."
Mom Erickajoy Daniels admits she gets emotional dividends from her only son.
"He's absolutely a joy! His skills, his passion.. his heart! He has such an old soul and a compassionate heart. And I love how he's trying to do for others. He challenges me, motivates me, and encourages me. I look at him and see hope!"
Early on John's attitude was like a professional.
"He was at Mequon Montessori school and one of the teachers had said, 'you know, John continues to go to the back of the line," Erickajoy said. "I don't know if he's shy if we should break him out of his shell."
"I remember asking him [about that] and he said, 'well, mommy, you taught me that ladies go first.'"
Daniel's father, John Daniels III believes self-discovery is vital to molding future moguls.
"The Montessori method of following the child is not something that everybody subscribes to. But find things that your child is interested in and just expose them to that over and over and over again. Your child is going to change. They're going to be interested in dinosaurs one week and planets the next. But it's nothing to go to the library and find books that they can read and talk about the planets or discover different dinosaurs. Just make that learning process fun. That insatiable hunger for knowledge is a muscle that you build."
Erickajoy recalled a story her father told her on the day John was born.
"He said, kid, celebrate and feed his curiosity. Never get tired of his questions. Allow him to explore. As he explores his questions, he explores himself."
Mom adds, "That's always stuck with me. I think as parents, we need to not try to script our children's lives."
"My grandmother was my bestie. And she lived to 107. Where kids can get restless, he would just sit with her and listen to her tell stories. And he would ask about history."
The Daniels believes an extended family extends a child's love.
Erickajoy Daniels notes, "When we have those kinds of connections, there are more people to love them. I don't feel the burden of having to parent by myself. But I also know that I can't constrain him to just my wisdom. You know, I know that there's wisdom in our family network, that cannot be blocked for him to see."
Daniels IV says, "I grew up in a time where you didn't always ask your parents questions. I've given him that freedom to set some guidelines so that we can have open and honest conversations, which allows him to discover so many things."
And those lessons are apparently working.
The younger Daniels states, "Every time I wake up, I remember how lucky and blessed I am to have parents and family who support me. Having a support system is very important, very crucial."
What's in store for the future of John Daniel's IV?
"I still want to have my own business and focus on being able to keep building bridges and create design. I'm also a finance person I love to invest. I have given investment advice for people and help them know how to manage their money. I've mostly had mostly adult clients so far."
Yes, Daniels gives advice to adults!
"I know how blessed I am to be able to have the knowledge that I do," he adds.
So, for any young dreamers hoping to be entrepreneurs, you may want to heed the advice of young John. He's already yielding results.
"If you have an idea to start a T-shirt company or want to start a lemonade stand, know that it's not impossible. If you have help. anything is possible. You just put your mind to it."