When nine-year-old Ontario kidpreneur Owen Armstrong thoughtfully builds and paints each of his Nice Bench Co. step stools, he embodies what Shakespeare called "the milk of human kindness" - natural kindness and sympathy for others. After building a step stool for his little sister, Anikka, Owen grew his enterprise into a business that donates 50% of after tax profits to families whose loved ones suffer from childhood cancer, which his older brother Caden endures.
The love doesn't just manifest in the form of donations, however. Owen's step stools demonstrate a respect for nature and health of the children who use his products.
Owen uses biodegradable milk paint. Milk-based paints are alleged to be the earliest natural paints ever used and are found in cave paintings. The moniker comes from one of the main ingredients, casein, which is a milk protein. When casein is combined with non-toxic pigments from natural sources like chalk, clay, and limestone, the result is a durable paint with a variety of artistic uses and a unique, rustic look that results when absorbed into porous surfaces. Milk paint has a breathable coating that is mould resistant. It doesn't peel or chip like other paints.
The fact that milk paint is non-hazardous to the children who will be interacting with the step stools serves to reiterate this young man's dedication to enriching people's lives. Other paints contain volatile organic compounds ("VOCs"), some of which are carcinogenic.
The raw material for the children's step stools come from a private, sustainable forest in Novar, Ontario that practises selective harvesting– a reminder that we can derive economic benefit from responsibly managed natural resources. It is also a wonderful complement to the spirit of Owen's labours of love. Knowing that forests like this one will be around for future generations, to foster boreal ecosystems and support the environment, is itself a source of hope, just like every single step stool made from its wood.
A New Era of Kidpreneurship?
Owen has set a high bar for business owners, proving that there is room in entrepreneurship for humanitarian considerations. Business doesn't have to be just about profit. Hopefully, other kids– and adults–can look to this clever and selfless boy and follow his lead. The world would be a much better place.
Contributed to The Nice Bench Co by April L.