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10-year-old's before-school side hustle brings in thousands of dollars: How he works around his 8 p.m. bedtime

Jacob Heitmann

Most mornings, Jacob Heitmann wakes up, eats breakfast and heads to his family's computer in the basement to see if his 3D-printing business received any orders.

If so, he pulls up the design someone ordered — his favorite is a rainbow plastic skull — and puts his 3D printer to work. Most prints take at least two hours to create, so the machine works while Heitmann heads to his fourth-grade classes, the 10-year-old from Indiana says.

Since January, Heitmann has brought in more than $1,700 in revenue selling 3D printed toys to his classmates, on his website and from his Etsy shop, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. Many of his toys sell for less than $20 apiece. He works roughly three hours per day on his side hustle, he says.

"I always have wanted to sell stuff to people," Heitmann says. "It's fun, setting up a listing and seeing how much you want to [charge for it] ... It always just made me feel like, I don't know, a big business guy."

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Heitmann convinced his parents to buy his first 3D printer, a $300 "Ender" model from Chinese company Creality, for his birthday last July. The machine could only print one color at a time. "I told them it was state-of-the-art technology that was changing lives," Heitmann says, laughing.

Equipped with his printer, Heitmann watched YouTube videos, took lessons on Outschool.com and asked his parents for a second device, a Bambu Lab P1S multi-color printer that currently retails for $949.

Santa delivered it for Christmas, Heitmann's father Chris says.

An entrepreneur by nature and nurture

Heitmann's entrepreneurial pursuits started early. At age nine, he asked his grandfather — who owns a printing promotion company — to help him produce T-shirts and sweatshirts bearing the logo of his YouTube account, which he started under his dad's name to watch and post videos about Roblox and Minecraft.

He set up a website to sell the apparel, but didn't "put enough effort" into that side hustle, he says. He sold 20 units at most, he adds, before replacing the listings with his 3D-printing designs. He launched his Etsy shop, under his mom's name, in February after teachers asked him and his friends — some of whom also have their own 3D printers, says Heitmann — to stop soliciting sales in class.

Heitmann and his 3D-printing setup
Jacob Heitmann
Heitmann and his 3D-printing setup

In April, a family friend asked Heitmann to create 12 11-inch replicas of the Chase Tower in Chicago for a retirement party. Heitmann originally wanted to charge $20 per piece, he says. His dad, who says he used to own two storefronts on Chicago's Navy Pier, suggested raising the prices to $45 to include labor costs, because each model took nine hours to print.

At the new price point, Heitmann brought in $540 in revenue — money he'll save for college, or use to buy another 3D printer, he says.

Heitmann's 3D-printed Chase Tower models, pictured in Chicago's real-life Chase Tower.
Courtesy of Jacob Heitmann
Heitmann's 3D-printed Chase Tower models, pictured in Chicago's real-life Chase Tower.

In the meantime, the fourth-grader is already discovering the challenges of growing a side hustle.

Since the retirement party, Heitmann has received six orders from attendees who want more of the Chicago skyline. Those custom orders are in the queue, but may have to wait a while: His schedule is full with math assignments and sports practices, and his parents ask him to set his Etsy store to vacation mode whenever they travel, he says.

"He hasn't had time to accommodate requests for other buildings," says Chris, Heitmann's father. "Between school, training for his future spot in the MLB and his 8 p.m. bedtime, he just doesn't have the time."

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