By Karen Billing
Two of Del Mar’s youngest entrepreneurs, Thomas and Mickey Heine, are using their business sense to make a difference in the world. Their company, T&M World Bead, sells bracelets made with African-sourced beads but instead of spending their $1,000 in earnings, they donated the funds to Project Concern International (PCI), a San Diego-based nonprofit that seeks to prevent disease, improve community health and promote sustainable development worldwide.
“We just wanted to get PCI money to help kids out,” said Thomas, a 12-year-old sixth grader at Del Mar Heights. “I hope that the company does grow and expand and maybe go overseas.”
The organization has programs that target women’s empowerment, food and water programs, children’s health, and poverty all over the world in places such as Bolivia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Haiti and Tanzania.
PCI also provides disaster recovery such as its recent efforts in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. In the Philippines, PCI has been distributing food, hygiene supplies and basic medicines. The team is also identifying solutions to revitalize agricultural production and recover livelihoods for local fisherman and women to boost household incomes and local markets.
The boys learned of PCI as their mother Uli has worked with PCI for 20 years and now serves as the organization’s director of development. Her travels to Africa on PCI trips brought back the art of bead making, which she taught to her sons and brought to Del Mar Heights last February. Last year, Heights second and fourth graders made beads to make necklaces that were sold at PCI’s Walk for Water in which people carry buckets of water for the 5K course to experience what it is like daily for people in areas of Africa with water shortages.
After learning how to make the beads and selling their wares, Thomas decided to start their own company, tapping on the real world skills he learned at Junior Achievement, a financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship program offered at Heights.
“Junior Achievement was the first influence on how to run a business, but my mom and dad helped me along the way with tips,” Thomas said.
Thomas made himself CEO and younger brother Mickey, 9, became CFO.
“He’s a great partner, he’s fun to be around,” Thomas said of Mickey.
Friends Billy and Bella Otterson of La Jolla became the company manager and supervisor respectively. On the company website, Billy is described as “full of humor and creative juices” and Bella as a hard worker who “always tries to make everything as fun as possible while still getting the job done.”
They no longer make their own beads — Thomas sources his beads through fair trade from women in Uganda for T&M World Bead. Bracelets have been sold at the Del Mar Art Stroll and at a recent Junior Achievement event at BizTown in Mission Valley.
While Thomas pays his Otterson sibling employees, all the profits go back into building the business and making money for PCI.
Both of Thomas’ parents, Uli and Mark, are very proud of their sons’ efforts.
“Thomas and Mickey are more aware that one-third of the world’s population lives in pretty desperate circumstances because of Uli’s job,” said dad Mark. “They know PCI serves a lot of children and for them it’s second nature to want to give and help out. They did this by choice and that’s a lot of money for a 12 year old and 9 year old to give up, especially ones that don’t have Playstation.”
To order a bracelet online, visit tandmworldbead.com. To learn more about PCI, visit pciglobal.org