Teenager James Corneille sends out good cheer by packaging positivity
A serial entrepreneur at just 17, James Corneille is now tackling mental health with his new start-up
James Corneille: “I’m excellent at multitasking, which helps when I just do normal teenage things.” Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22
While most 17 year olds are spending their evenings and weekends studying for the Leaving Certificate, James Corneille is hosting brainstorming sessions with his friends and trying to work out how best to market his latest product.
Introduced to the tech world from a very young age by his father, who used to own his own computer business in Limerick, James Corneille has been designing websites and making apps for more than three years, and was even the creator of his own viral marketing stunt late last year.
At just 14 years of age, Corneille picked up the Web Developer category in the Future 8 Awards, which looks for the top digital talent in the UK and Ireland, with a platform he developed called Skizzie, which helped young children to learn languages through animation.
He also won the Smart Futures competition with a website he developed called allaboutgenetics.com, as well as winning eight other business and technology awards since 2013.
The young entrepreneur is now the brains behind Positivity Pack, a mental health start-up that aims to “spread that Friday good-vibe feeling” to those that are feeling down.
“Positivity Pack is the perfect chill-out kit after those horrible, rainy, hair-pulling, frustrating and unfortunate days. If there’s someone in your life right now that you think needs a bit of cheering up, you can do so by surprising them with a Positivity Pack, or even get one for yourself,” says Corneille.
The small packages, which contain bubble wrap, a calming tea bag, de-stress guides and business cards with “happy reminders”, can either be sent anonymously or with your name attached, along with a personal feel-good message.
While the packs are being marketed to everyone, from people having a bad day at work to situations that might be a little more serious, Corneille also made them with people his own age in mind.
“For young people, there is a lot of pressure with bullying and the stress of school. Luckily that doesn’t happen in our school and if it does they are very quick to stamp it out. It’s a great thing to know you are making even the smallest difference with a Positivity Pack and that’s what keeps me motivated,” he says.
Winner of Best Concept at the Eircom Junior Spiders awards last summer, Positivity Pack was also accepted into Outbox Incubator in the UK, a six-week programme for young entrepreneurs in Stem to get their idea off the ground.
One of the biggest challenges he has encountered as a teen entrepreneur thus far, he says, is trying to market his product to a wider audience.
“I don’t have a lot of connections because of my age, which makes it difficult to get the word out. Twitter has definitely been great, and I am currently getting about 10 messages of encouragement a day.”
Despite all his achievements, Corneille says it is the messages of encouragement from supporters that he is most proud of.
“I have been getting a lot of inspiring messages about Positivity Pack, people telling me what a good job I am doing and how great of an idea it is. They mean a lot to me.”
Corneille says people have been very supportive of his idea as they love getting young people interested in tech.
This constant encouragement along with help from the Digital Youth Council, set up by fellow teenage entrepreneur Harry McCann, have helped motivate him to keep working on his product.
“People like Harry McCann really inspire me, as well as other members on the Digital Youth Council. I love being on it with them, and to surround myself with people that have similar goals.”
Corneille’s ultimate goal would be to own his own business once he’s finished school next year, but he says he isn’t ruling out college just yet, as he plans to do whatever is best for his career and education.
“I would like to continue being an entrepreneur. I dream high so ideally I would love to make enough money from Positivity Pack each day to have it as an actual full-time job. It’s something I’m really interested and passionate about.”
While most people would struggle with trying to simultaneously study, hang out with friends like a normal teenager and run their own business, Corneille appears to take it all in his stride.
“I’m excellent at multitasking, which helps when I just do normal teenage things. I have my friends over and I throw out ideas and we discuss it together. They love Positivity Pack and are always giving me great ideas on how to improve it,” he says.
Despite his youthful energy and enthusiasm helping him to find the time to fit everything in, Corneille says he is also coming to terms with the long hours entrepreneurs must work to be successful.
“When I was younger, I knew I didn’t want to work the usual nine to five, but now I am realising that being an entrepreneur is actually even worse, and involves working nine to nine!
“As I really want to do this, however, I wouldn’t even mind working until 12 every night, as long as I get to do something I love. I’m not just in love with this particular idea, I’m in love with being an entrepreneur.”
So what advice does he have for fellow young entrepreneurs, hoping to set up their own business?
“Dream high. No matter what you want to do just believe and you will get there. Keep working on it, especially if you are young, and soon people will notice and see the passion you have and will start to help you.
“That happened to me, they saw my passion and noticed me.”