Nethila Nimsath is nothing like a regular teenager. He just turned 13 but already has an entrepreneur’s career. With the support of his father, he developed a large following on LinkedIn, is interviewing successful entrepreneurs on his YouTube Channel, and created a business academy for children and teenage candidate entrepreneurs.
When Nethila was 10, his father, Amithe Gamage, a branding strategist regularly hosting live shows on Facebook, asked him to participate in short videos. Nethila would ask a question and Amithe would provide a long answer.
“My father thought people would be amazed to see a child talking about business,” Nethila said. He was offered 500 rupees per show. “I gladly accepted. I was 10 years old; I could not decline such an offer!” That was the start of Nethila’s career.
In 2019, one of Amithe’s friends who has a book club asked if Nethila would present a book to an adult audience. “I was a little bit nervous,” said Nethila “because I was doing the presentation physically.” Amithe realized that not only his precocious child was at ease in front of a camera, but also in front of people. “I did the presentation very well and my dad took me for a pizza as a treat after that,” said a smiling Nethila.
Nethila, an avid reader, enjoyed interviewing people. He filled in for his brother, also a YouTuber, at a moment’s notice, and soon had his own YouTube Channel. Cinnamon Chat with Nethila features successful entrepreneurs talking about their lives and their entrepreneurial journey.
By December 2020, “it was time to get into LinkedIn,” said Amithe, who added proudly “there are about ten LinkedIn live streamers in Sri Lanka and Nethila is one of them.” December 2020 was in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis and people spent a lot of time on social media “so it was a good time for me to get on social media,” recalls Nethila. He now has over 4,300 followers.
Nethila’s LinkedIn page is his main business development platform. When LinkedIn rolled out its creator mode worldwide in the Spring of 2021, the access to the service was limited to users creating their own, original content. Nethila got access soon after the creator mode launch, followed by his father.
“I started getting connected with many entrepreneurs on LinkedIn,” Nethila said, and he contacted entrepreneurs to interview directly instead of going through his father’s network. A year and a half later Nethila is regularly contacted by entrepreneurs volunteering to be interviewed.
Nethila decided to share his knowledge about entrepreneurship with children and teenagers, and created Marspreneurs, a business academy. Marspreneurs is a “very futuristic name,” explained Nethila, referring to a time when future entrepreneurs will trade with people colonizing planets, such as Mars.
The next step was for Nethila to have a website, which soon turned into an e-commerce site hosting not only the courses of the business academy, but also a store to buy entrepreneurial-related books, internet of things robotic devices, and…luxury cars.
The e-commerce addition to the website was Amithe’s idea. “You can go to a class and learn about e-commerce, or you can open an e-commerce site and learn,” he noted.
“Marspreneurs is a place for passionate kids who dream of owning their own business,” states the website, offering to acquire skills including leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, branding, sales, marketing, and teamwork.
The first in-person course, on 26 March, where Nethila taught children how to sell ice cream in a real ice cream shop was a success, with 30 children participating. “Experiential learning can help children learn entrepreneurial skills better and the Ice Cream selling workshop just gave that experience to kids who participated,” he said.
His next practical workshop will be about ‘How to run a restaurant” Nethila explained, adding that discussions are ongoing with a few business partners to organize the workshop in a real restaurant.
Asked about his take on his son’s activities, Amithe said “I advise top CEOs to help them to get the best out of them.” “I have been working with both my sons and I came to realize each child has a creative potential, unfortunately not every parent knows how to help them develop it.”
“Nethila has to discover a career for himself.” For the moment he is an entrepreneur, Amithe said. “He has not sold a single car but has sent out 25 proposals to potential buyers.” The goal of the e-commerce website was to serve as an exercising and learning ground for Nethila. “Professionally he might become a software engineer or an artist, I am not worried about him,” he said.
If Amithe provides strong guidance to Nethila, he is “giving him a little bit of a free hand.” Nethila entirely manages his LinkedIn account, with light supervision, while Amithe manages Nethila’s Facebook page because “Facebook in this country is one of the worst places for a kid to be.” Amithe also manages Nethila’s YouTube account.
“I don’t want Nethila to make a lot of money, but get the experience” says Amithe, although money-making activities are beginning to crop up, such as speaking engagements, the Marspreneurs’ Academy courses, and the cut on future car sales.
Becoming a serial entrepreneur is strong on Nethila’s plans. “Entrepreneurs invent new ways to do things, they make life easier,” he said.
In the meantime, he goes on with his normal school activities, while already leading the life of a busy entrepreneur. He will soon be part of a coding course co-produced under the Marspreneurs’ Academy where he will be presenting the entrepreneurial modules of the course.
Amithe is working to register Marspreneurs, and both father and son firmly intend to include intellectual property in all their interviews and courses, with the help of the Sri Lanka National Innovation Agency.
What does a perfect world look like in the mind of a young entrepreneur? A world without wars, pandemics, ocean or air pollution, with entrepreneurs helping with sustainability.