(CNN)It’s never too early to start a business.
When he was 3 years old, Ryan Hickman visited the rePlanet recycling center in California, and found his life’s mission.
The next day, as he greeted his dad, Damion, at their San Juan Capistrano driveway, he pointed down the street and made an announcement: “My new business! I’m going to pick up all the cans and bottles from everyone in the neighborhood.”
Today, at the ripe old age of 7, he is the CEO, manager and employee of Ryan’s Recycling Company. He has 50 customers and over 200,000 bottles and cans in his recycling credit.
Hickman, a graphic designer and no more than an average recycler himself, emphasizes that it has all been “100% Ryan, though of course I’m the driver — every three weeks or so we go to the recycling center — and I also help him sort into glass, aluminum and plastic when it’s a big pile.”
Despite the outpouring of support and gratitude, Hickman remains slightly cautious. “I try to discourage direct donations, I don’t want people to think we’re trying to make money off the kid,” he says. “We certainly appreciate it and I realize it makes people feel good; 99% of the comments say how inspiring it is. But a fraction of the comments say ‘the kid is a marketing tool for a mom and dad business’ and we just try not to read them. I started typing a response once and stopped. I feel it’s not worth it.”
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