Kids around the world are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles by making, selling and marketing the latest craze in tactile fun: slime. Jihee Junn, writing for The Spinoff, talks to one Auckland-based 11-year-old who's decided to cash in.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Richard Branson bred and sold parakeets at age 11, while Warren Buffet was a door-to-door salesman of Wrigley's chewing gum at age six.
Ingvar Kamprad, founder of global furniture brand Ikea, started his career in the style of all Scandinavian fairy tales: traipsing across his Swedish hometown selling matches for a profit as a five-year-old child.
As for 11-year-old Aucklander Katharina Weischede, she's already doing most of the things it takes to run a successful modern enterprise: taking to social media to build a loyal following, developing a cohesive brand with an eye-catching design, retailing through both physical and online platforms, and selling relevant merchandise alongside her main product.
But it's not gum, matches or pets she's selling – it's slime. Not slime like What Now's nostalgia-tinged gunge or that stuff celebs get doused with every year at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards (never forget that time Katy Perry basically got projectile vomited on by a box), but slime that's gooey, fluffy and soft to the touch.
"Slime is one of my favourite things. It's really satisfying and it always makes me stress-free," says Weischede, who started her business Slime Princess (not to be confused with Adventure Time's own SP) late last year.
"I definitely think it's more fun than other toys and I like it even better than Hatchimals."
If you don't have kids (or at least friends who have kids), it can be difficult to contemplate just how big the craze has gotten over the last few months until you look at Google's top trending searches in New Zealand last year: occupying the first, fourth and fifth most popular search spots in the 'How to…?' category are all various questions related to slime, outranking even the most widespread queries on basic democracy and weight loss.
But don't just take it from Google when it comes to the slime craze: there's plenty of evidence anecdotally as well.
As to why it's become so popular, most explanations veer towards its ability to tap into people's love for tactility and fidgeting (which popularised one of 2017's most faddish toys) and the internet's obsession with mesmerising visuals and sensory sounds (ever heard of ASMR?).
Weischede says she was inspired to start making her own slime by Oobleck, a substance similar to slime. "I experimented with millions of recipes but none of them really worked for me so I took bits and pieces of the recipes and made my own," she says.
"I started selling it at school the first month but there was no hope. But soon it became super popular and I had a lot of batches to make."
When her parents found out about the popularity of her slime, they offered to help their daughter's fledgling venture by printing stickers, business cards and even T-shirts for her, all of which are emblazoned with the Slime Princess logo which Weischede designed herself.
"I felt like a true businesswoman. I've always wanted to become a businesswoman!" she says.
Weischede, of course, isn't the only young 'slimetrepreneur' making the most of this lucrative trend.
A quick search on Facebook brings up at least half a dozen local shops and sellers touting their own concoctions, while overseas, people have started to make serious bank from their various slime-related work.
In the US, 23-year-old YouTuber Karina Garcia purchased a six-bedroom home in California last year thanks to her 5.7 million slime-obsessed subscribers, while 13-year-old Theresa Nguyen is said to be raking in up to US$3,000 a month from selling homemade slime on Instagram.
At the end of the day, selling slime – like any business – is all about making money.
But at least slimetrepreneurs like 11-year-old Weischede are having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. And if the business thing doesn't work out, she's got a backup plan anyway: she says she's going to be a lawyer.