Every cutting-edge business idea has a season, said Alex Santoro, baking the details of his 3D printing venture: a subscription box that delivers a set of Kansas City-made holiday-themed cookie cutters — and showcases the teen’s enterprising ambitions.
When he turned 18 in August, the Lee’s Summit West student and Worlds of Fun intern celebrated by buying the printing equipment to launch Tenacty and is offering a subscription that includes four seasonal boxes with five cookie cutters each on his website.
The winter box features holiday-themed cutters like Santa, a snowman, and a snowflake. The spring box is Easter themed with a bunny, a chick, and a carrot. Halloween images fill the fall box with a ghost, a pumpkin with a witches hat, and a haunted house.
He’s still working on the cookie cutters for the summer box — which will be Independence Day themed — with the Statue of Liberty and a star.
Click here to check out Tenacty and the next available cookie cutters.
The effort isn’t Santoro’s first swipe at entrepreneurship, he said.
He was about 5 when he started taking things out of his siblings’ rooms, displaying them on the kitchen table, and selling the items back to them, he recalled.
“It did actually work,” Santoro said, “until my parents put a stop to that … I’ve always thought in terms of selling and money. That’s just how my brain works.”
Now at 18, he’s officially launched Tenacty — inspired in part by Santoro’s recent internship at Worlds of Fun — although cookie cutters weren’t the first idea that came to mind, he said.
Interested in 3D printing since fifth grade, Santoro has been working at the KC theme park since April as a data and analysis intern through his Summit Technology Academy business class. He was asked to create a prototype for a hot air balloon cutter that could be used for the pretzels sold at the park.
“That’s how I learned how to do 3D modeling by myself,” he explained. “And I thought to myself, ‘It’s easy. I feel like this has a good market to it.’ And that’s why I started with the cookie cutters.”
The senior — who was recently named the Worlds of Fun food and beverage employee of the year — was also asked to create a prototype of a chocolate coin mold for the park’s 50th anniversary next year, he said.
“I feel like my accomplishments have been really good up there,” he added.
Santoro is hoping to start marketing the cookie cutter subscription boxes soon.
“The biggest hurdle for me has been my time,” he noted. “Not just my internship at Worlds of Fun, but I have a second job, as well, and I’ve been applying for colleges. Now this is the time that everything’s mellowing down. The season is over at Worlds of Fun and I’ll only be working during the weekdays. I’ve submitted my college applications and now I have some more time for myself.”
Cookie cutters are just the beginning for Santoro and his 3D printing business, he said. He’s already started designing flower pots and has made a few custom pots for Bibibop Asian Grill in Lee’s Summit.
On his website, he said he plans on offering flower pots with cat grass soon.
“It’s good for the cats,” he explained. “It gives them something to do, something to play with. And for a cat to play with something, you don’t want it to topple over. So it’s shaped almost as a pyramid dome. Then around it has the cat grass and it grows so quickly. That’s been very popular. I’ve sold a few of those.”
In the future, Santoro would like to create an app for kids to create their own computer-aided designs (CAD). They could design their own shapes or mix and match shapes — like combining the head of one animal with the body of another, he said.
“Then they can buy it,” Santoro continued. “And their own design is printed for them and sent to their door.”
He also plans to continue growing his business when he goes off to college in the fall, where he plans to study business.
“I’m in between finance and data,” Santoro said. “I do data over at Worlds of Fun and I happen to be really good at it. And then finance, I really like it because a company really needs to know their numbers. That’s something that’s very important. If you don’t know your numbers, you’re at the mercy of those who do. So that’s what I really like about it is that you understand the accounting side of it and then you can make business decisions based off of those numbers.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.