I always love hearing about people turning their worm composting hobby into a business – even more so when the budding entrepreneurs happen to be kids! So, when WFA member, Kevin Hatanaka, mentioned (earlier in the fall) that his family worm business was mostly run by his young son and daughter I “demanded” that he tell me more!
Kevin happily obliged, providing me with the full write-up you’ll find below!
I started vermicomposting about 9 years ago because I like raising animals and growing plants. This was at least a few years before my kids were born. My first bin was a Rubbermaid tub and I still have it today. My first worms were Red Wigglers and I eventually expanded to 2 tubs.
Once I got married and we had our two kids–Alyssa, who is now 7, and Will, who is 5–the worms were largely neglected, but some survived nonetheless. When we moved to our current house in 2015, I consolidated my worms back into one tub, which was kept on the side of the house. About 2-3 years ago, the kids started to notice the worms and they would occasionally poke in the bedding and pull out worms to talk to them and play with them. Will would have “worm races” on the lids of the bins.
In October 2019, Will helped me build a second worm bin and an outdoor raised bed. He has been interested in gardening and working outside since he was 2 years old. We added some more Red Wigglers to the new bin and the raised bed and by April 2020 we had split the bins to 2 more bins.
In June 2020, the kids did a goal setting workshop with me to plan their Summer. Each kid chose 5 hobbies to pursue and we agreed as parents to support them in their hobbies. Both kids chose karate and swimming. Alyssa added art, singing, and training our Boston Terrier, Leila. Will added gardening, basketball, and worm farming. He was seriously interested in raising worms by now so I agreed to buy him some European Nightcrawlers (Will also loves fishing) and some more Red Wigglers.
In July 2020, I took the kids on a mini field trip to a small urban worm farm near Los Angeles. Both kids were super excited to see a real worm farm and learn about new kinds of worms–especially African Nightcrawlers. We also saw worms being raised in racks with multiple trays and tubs. We had only seen those kinds of setups in videos before.
After the field trip, both kids immediately asked me for more worms. Alyssa was now all in as well. The purple African Nightcrawlers (her favorite color) became her love. Alyssa was later gifted some Africans for her birthday by the same worm farmer who we visited. He is now a great friend and a customer. The kids and I discussed all the extra expenses and work required to care for at least 3 kinds of worms and creating a rack of numerous worm trays. They are both excellent students and hard workers and they agreed that it only made sense to have so many worms if they started their own worm business. They would do all the work to raise the worms and they could use some of their profits to pay back Dad for all the expenses.
So in August 2020, Will’s Worms was born. We set up a simple website, www.willsworms.com, started advertising on Craigslist, printed business cards, and we built our first “worm rack” with 17 trays on a 5-shelf wire rack. We learned a lot from vermicomposting forums on Facebook, by watching YouTube videos, and by reading websites, including Red Worm Composting. Since the kids enjoyed watching other people’s worm videos, we decided to start making our own videos so the kids started their own YouTube channel, Will and Alyssa Adventures. The channel now averages over 700 views and 20 hours of watch time each month.
Some of the kids’ first customers were friends they made online. We’ve even been fortunate enough to meet a few of our worm friends in person. Several of their classmates have also bought worms to start their own worm farms after seeing how much fun Alyssa and Will are having.
The best business decision we made so far was to stock up on Red Wigglers in July and August when it was very hot and worm supplies were starting to dwindle. The kids agreed to invest a substantial amount of money in worms and equipment and do all the work necessary to care for 10,000 worms or more. Will and Alyssa wake up each morning 1.5 hours before school to do their chores and take care of their worms. Most mornings they are packing worm orders for local pickup. They also pack orders on demand during their breaks in classes for customers who want worms right away.
Right now, we are buying about 15 pounds of worms each month just to restock. Will’s Worms has been the only worm farm in the LA-area that we know of to consistently have Red Wigglers in stock all Summer despite several heat waves that hit 110-117 degrees for multiple days in a row. The heat has been our biggest challenge, but it also provided our biggest opportunity. We had some water mist cooling hoses attached to our outdoor patio and we moved those over to our worm rack and worm shed to humidify the air and cool the worms through evaporative cooling. Using 2 large box fans and 2 water mist lines, we are able to keep our worms roughly 25-30 degrees cooler than the air temperature. Our unique cooling system enabled our worms to survive when many competitors struggled. This video showing our water-cooling system has been our most popular one by far, generating over 200 views and almost 5 hours of watch time:
Will and Alyssa save all of their earnings from Will’s Worms. Both of them want to go to college. Alyssa wants to be teacher or a geologist when she grows up. Will wants to be a train engineer or a mechanical engineer. Each of them has a special function in the business as well. Alyssa is the bookkeeper and she uses an excel spreadsheet to track the revenues and expenses of the business. Will is the head of production. He helps design the worm racks and he does most of the heavy lifting when digging, carrying trays, or mixing new bedding is required.
When they are not working on their worm farm, Alyssa and Will love training in karate, traveling, gardening, swimming, camping, fishing, hiking, art, singing, music, sports, school, and spending time with their pets and family.
I see a very bright future ahead for Will and Alyssa – and the worm farming industry will be lucky if they decide to stay involved with worms once “grown up”. In the meantime, let’s cheer on these ambitious young entrepreneurs and reward them for their hard work and enthusiasm!
**Harness the Power of Worms- Join CGU Today! >>Learn More<<**