Joshua Danrich is like most kids his age. He’s energetic, has a big personality and loves cars.
“I always loved Hot Wheels,” Joshua said. “I love Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bugattis, Ferraris — all the sports cars.”
Last October, the 11-year-old turned his interest in cars into an air freshener and deodorizer business called Mr. Fresh. Joshua said his product can make anything fresh, including the inside of a car and fabrics at home. For $7 a pop, each portable glass spray bottle has its own unique scent and color from Black Ice and Cool Breeze to Yellow Rose and Baby Powder.
Joshua wants to help young black boys regain their confidence through entrepreneurship.
That’s one of the reasons he started his company. Joshua didn’t do well in school and had to repeat the fourth grade last year. That troubled him.
“One day I just cried just a full hour nonstop,” Joshua said. “But my mom told me that you need to just basically toughen up and just don't worry about repeating the fourth grade, because you know that you need to repeat the fourth grade so you can learn from your mistakes.”
When his mother, Shay Danrich, saw how his struggles in the classroom affected his self-esteem, she wanted to restore his confidence. The key was finding something he was passionate about.
“He was like, ‘Well I want a dealership. I love cars. Can we do something on that level?’ And because I saw that interest, I began to cultivate that interest,” Danrich said. “And I was like, 'We can't do a dealership, because you're 10. But hey, what about you love how the inside of the cars look? You like how they smell. Let's start working on it.' And so I said, 'What about air fresheners?' When I said 'air freshener,' it just took off."
The math and reading skills Joshua uses in his business have helped him in the classroom, his mother said.
Joshua wants other young black boys in St. Louis to thrive, too, by thinking about starting a business. He said often black boys are encouraged to play sports like football and basketball. However, Joshua thinks having a sound backup plan is key if things go wrong.
"What if you get injured in that sport?” Joshua asked. “What are you going to do after that? You can't do anything else. So what you need is a business. ... Because I want to be an engineer designing cars. So if I ever get injured in a sport, then I would go straight to this. And then if I can't go back, then I will just have my business for the rest of my life.”
Joshua said a lot of his kids his age and older are inspired by his success.
His business name has a double meaning. Joshua goes by the nickname “Mr. Fresh,” because he wants to look “fresh” and “cool.” But the fresh in Mr. Fresh stands for Faith to Rescue Every Son from Hurt. Joshua hopes young black boys will become leaders in their communities.
“They need to learn, read books and do everything they're supposed to do so they won't go in the wrong path."
Joshua said his business has given him more confidence.
“I'm hatching out of my shell of what I've overcome,” Joshua said.
Since her son started Mr. Fresh, Danrich said, Joshua is motivated to succeed, and that’s one reason he takes pride in his business.
"It's his ideas,” Danrich said. “His thoughts. His vision. What he wants to do. So it's amazing. It's an overwhelming joy to think that it's almost a year and to see how far he's come. Not in just even in his demeanor — in just the way he is and just how he cares for people. I'm seeing the true Joshua of how I know my son to be.”
Joshua will officially launch Mr. Fresh from 4-7 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Zuka Arts Guild.
Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011
Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com