One Entrepreneur’s Journey From Bullied Teen to Proud Business Owner
Kim Lachance Shandrow | July 7, 2017
Brandon Boynton, 20, was badly bullied in middle school, both physically and emotionally. The Pendleton, Ind. native’s tormentors were so cruel during his eight-grade year that Boyton spiraled into a deep depression and even considered taking his own life.
“My confidence had been destroyed and thoughts of suicide began to creep into my daily thoughts,” the 20-year-old entrepreneur said during a phone interview.
Lucky to have parents who will drop everything and travel across the country with me when great opportunity calls. pic.twitter.com/hfqor5d6VZ
That’s when his mother, Tonya, a fourth-grade teacher, and his father, Chad, a police officer, encouraged him to explore self-confidence boosting activities that they thought he might enjoy, such as digital video editing and other online media-based avenues.
He took to video editing right away and soon threw himself into creating fun YouTube videos of himself and his friends having epic Nerf blaster battles. But his enthusiasm quickly tanked after mean kids at school discovered his nascent YouTube channel and harshly laid into him yet again with hurtful put-downs and threats.
“It cut deep. I’d saved up my own money for video editing software,” he said. “I got really into it and I thought I was going to be a YouTube sensation. I thought I was going to make it big, and I really put myself out there and I got rejected.”
That’s around the time when, encouraged by his parents to rise above his critics once again, Boynton joined the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a popular national program sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that educates aspiring “kidpreneurs” to “generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors and launch their very own companies.”
Boynton was a sophomore in high school when he joined. He was unsure of how participating in YEA! would turn out, he says, but took the bold entrepreneurial leap anyway.
“Still struggling with self-doubt, this was a huge leap of faith for me,” he said. “However, somewhere deep down, I suspected that I possessed the ability to be successful in business.”
Boynton’s prediction ended up ringing true. Indeed, he soon would be successful in business. In fact, when he was only 14, he spun the foundational mentoring, resources, skills and contacts he gleaned from YEA! into his very own company.
Founded in 2013, with the mission of building “apps that make a difference…Not games…Apps that improve lives,” his Indianapolis-based mobile app making startup is called MostBeastlyStudios LLC. Fittingly, its inaugural offering is an app titled The BullyBox. The unique tool, “designed to allow students to anonymously report acts of bullying without becoming directly involved in the incident,” is essentially a digital version of a physical “bully box.”
So-called “bully boxes,” now commonly found in many schools throughout the U.S., are wall- or desk-mounted receptacles that school administrators encourage bullied students to place handwritten notes in, as a way of anonymously reaching out for help. Witnesses to bullying can also use these boxes to inform administrators of incidents.
“The problem is, students don’t want to be seen dropping a note in one of these boxes for fear of social repercussions or escalated bullying,” Boynton said. “With The BullyBox app, that fear factor and stigma are removed, and it clears the way for help, and for meaningful solutions and healing to begin. Plus, kids, especially teenagers are so used to communicating digitally, so it just makes sense.”
It is with great appreciation that I express my thanks to @EYnews for being chosen to receive the 2017 Ohio Valley Entrepreneur of the Year! pic.twitter.com/zxgAkrvdKX
In addition to notifying school officials to student reports of alleged physical, verbal, cyber and emotional bullying, The BullyBox provides students with a safe, anonymous outlet to tip teachers and administrators off to a host of other serious school safety concerns. These include weapon-, drug- and fight-related threats and incidents.
“The reality is that one in ten students drop out of school because of bullying,” Boynton said. “Some 160,000 students miss school every day due to being repeatedly bullied, and 256 American students commit suicide, or “bullycide,” every year due to bullying. This has to stop and I am passionate about taking an active role in doing something, in making a change and in empowering others to do the same in ways that they feel protected and safe in doing so.”
Thanks to his own strength and perseverance in the face of intense bullying, combined with his demonstration of entrepreneurial grit and leadership at such a remarkably young age, today, more than 130,000 students in 30 U.S. states and in 11 countries use The BullyBox to report bullying.
The BullyBox is available for free for students to download and use. To monetize his inspiring, social mission-based platform, Boynton developed The BullyBox Pro, a version that costs schools $499 per year to use. This more fully featured premium iteration is free for students to use as well.
On top of enabling users to share photographic evidence of cyber and other forms of bullying, the Pro version offers auto-generated warning alert phone calls to school officials. The calls notify them of threats detected by a proprietary algorithm that filters for red-flag keywords, such as “bomb,” “kill” and “gun.”
“It was my overwhelming desire to offer assistance to students who were dealing with the same bullying-related issues that I had experienced, combined with a passion for software development, that led to this journey,” said Boyton. “In the process, I found that entrepreneurialism is also one of the most rewarding careers. You don’t clock in and clock out, making the same no matter how hard you work…when your hard work and dedication pays off, there is no better feeling. Watching your business, your ‘baby,’ grow, that is the reason entrepreneurialism is worth it.”
As for what’s next for the avid coder, motivational speaker and successful young entrepreneur, Boynton says he plans to create several more apps that have a positive impact on people’s lives, young and not so young alike. He also plans to grow his company, eventually creating jobs in his home state and perhaps beyond.
“I would like to see the studio in an office space in Indianapolis,” he said, “with many employees. I would like to see myself driving to work on a sweet motorcycle. I want to be designing apps that make a difference with my employees.”