Teen’s hefty $30K a month pay packet
Wil Massara is the first to admit he was no teacher's pet at school.
The 18-year-old from Perth had a 51 per cent attendance rate in 2019 and didn't finish high school.
Instead, he spent his time building a youth leadership academy he founded in 2018 after becoming "angry" and "frustrated" by the traditional education system.
The school dropout turned entrepreneur is now turning over $30,000 a month with his business Youth Leadership Academy Australia, running workshops on teen resilience and leadership.
Ironically, most of the tickets sales are coming from high schools.
Wil started the business selling 65 tickets for the first event in Perth in 2018 while he was still at high school. A year later, he was touring nationally, with events in four cities across the country and more than 200 high school students attending.
By March 2020, it grew to 770 students across five cities, with the brand growing 300 per cent year on year.
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GROWTH DESPITE COVID
The academy's 2020 program was booked up in March and April when Wil got the news about COVID-19 while he was running an event in Brisbane.
The business changed overnight and Wil had to think strategically about the business model. He created an online platform in two weeks so events could still run while the nation went into lockdown.
"Flexibility and pivot have been the biggest words in 2020," he said. "In the last month there have been so many schools looking for opportunities that are youth led."
The academy has sold 950 tickets in the past four weeks, "which is more than what we sold in the entire 2020 tour".
The next tour in March 2021 will reach New Zealand, and Wil is adding in Darwin and Hobart to the list because these are the cities that tend to "miss out" in Australia, he said.
The Perth teen from Collie who transferred to high school in Bunbury, a regional town south of Perth, says he is passionate about reaching schools in remote and regional areas where travelling may not be an option.
ANGERED BY THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
Throughout year 11 and 12, school was not a priority for Wil as he travelled around Australia facilitating youth programs while he watched his peers go through the "stress" that comes with the senior years of school.
Wil was angered by the pressure put on students to succeed, and the emphasis on their year 12 results being a lifeline for success.
"As I went into year 11 that's when I was so angry. There's so much pressure in the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank). You get told to either get great results or you'll amount to nothing, that's the message the education department gives," he told news.com.au.
He was equally infuriated by "the lack of leadership and communication skills" being offered at school.
"I was faced with the question of, 'if not me, then who?' and, 'if not now, then when?' "Which is when Youth Leadership Academy Australia was born with the mission of building a positively sustainable future through youth leadership and empowerment," he said.
"The school curriculum doesn't allow much flexibility but we provide that platform."
'I LEARNED IT ALL FROM GOOGLE'
Wil was only 11 years old when he created his first website, Planeapidea, which he dubbed 'The Wikipedia of Planes', inspired by sitting at an airport for a family holiday.
He learned to build the "plane and travel" site from Google. "I did a Google search and set up a website for fun at the time. I was sitting on the couch on mum's computer, googling how to start a website," he said.
He also started selling pens online and around school, making $200 a week over two weeks selling pens for $2 each, including to Indonesia and New Zealand. "I used that $400 to buy a new camera to take photos for the website."
At just 14, in 2016, Wil was sponsored by Bendigo Bank to attend a five-day Magic Moments youth leadership and business summit, which he says he went to because he was "tempted by the free flight to Sydney".
Now he goes back each year as a volunteer and is a chairperson of the committee, and says that trip taught him valuable leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
At only 15, Wil approached Qantas and was invited as a media representative for their first Boeing 787 flight into Perth.
At the same time, Singapore Airlines was familiar with Wil's work at his Planeapidea website - which was discontinued in 2018 for Wil to pursue other ambitions - and reached out to him when their Airbus A350 launched into Perth to support their media campaign.
Wil says his business skills in sales, marketing and networking are all self taught.
"School didn't even teach me how to structure an email," he said. "I learned it all, including building the website, from Google."
'YOU'LL AMOUNT TO NOTHING'
Despite dropping out of high school and refusing to sit the ATAR, Wil has recently been accepted into a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at the Australian Institute of Management's business school.
"I didn't achieve an ATAR. I didn't graduate from year 12. I made the decision not to graduate and was told I wouldn't be able to go to uni," he said.
"I didn't do an undergraduate degree, but I got through with the MBA because of my management experience. I've never been the type of person who can study, but I'm excited about the knowledge that will come from it."
Wil's mum Karen Coram helps him with the administration side of the business, which will help him while he studies and works, and he also has a team who helps him.
MAKING LEADERSHIP 'COOL'
His goal for the next couple of years is to "positively impact 100,000 young people by the end of 2022" after reaching 5000 by the end of this year.
Wil says he wants to start reaching out to primary schools for early intervention. "Once you get to high school, leadership isn't necessarily cool," he said.
He wants to help families and parents understand what teens are going through these days, including the impact of social media because, "I know first-hand the experiences they are going through".
Wil says the academy helps students feel more equipped for the future and provides support to young people that "is not there in schools".
"I want my peers to have the same opportunities that I had, to realise their true potential and see how limitless they really are," he said.
Wil says the money that he's making from the academy is being reinvested back into the business.
"I don't want to be one of the 90 per cent of start-ups that fail," he said.
"I do want to become the expert in the education field so that the government can come to us. We want to create a legacy where the students can step up as leaders."
The academy has implemented a three-month "momentum program" to ensure students don't drop off what they learned at the workshops.
Originally published as Teen's hefty $30K a month pay packet