Position applied for: Boy businessman

Thomas V. Bona

Tanner Leuellen aced his first job interview.

The 8-year-old Rockford boy who became a celebrity after handing out homemade business cards at a Rockford Chamber of Commerce event last week loves to talk to people.

But he really wants to try things out. So he was excited when he got to spend a couple of hours Friday helping out at the Good Feet store in Rockford.

“Your personality really bubbles through,” owner Larry Buckman told him after a short interview. “You seem much older than 8.”

The interview was a formality — Buckman and his wife, Debbie, already had a name tag printed up for Tanner. And it wasn’t a real job, just two hours of opening boxes, calling customers and seeing how the store works. Tanner got a gift certificate for his time, but what he most appreciated was the experience.

“I’m very friendly, so a business like this would suit me very well,” he said. “I hope this leads to a very nice job and hopefully other kids learn of this and they try the same thing I’m trying.”

Tanner dressed in nice clothes and filled out a job application, listing his skills and interests as “math, building, trains, playing and helping.”

Later, he went to Snap Fitness in Rockford to get a tour and see how a health club operates.

He’s on spring break from school, so he has more free time than normal.

Since he can’t legally work for several years, Tanner will keep an eye out for one-time things like these visits, and anything else that catches his eye. He said his dream jobs are being on the show MythBusters or being a train engineer.

“Tanner likes to help so if he has an opportunity to help somebody or get a skill, he likes to do it,” said his mom, Aimee Kuelling. “If adults are willing to feed that curiosity in a positive way, that’s great. ... When kids are told to be quiet, sit down and don’t talk, they lose some of that curious spirit.”

She said he got the interest in the work world by going to jobs with her and with his father, Frank Leuellen of Aurora. His first job was selling Christmas trees with his grandfather.

Taylor went to the chamber event last week in a suit, handing out business cards his mother helped him make. His mentor and family friend Steve Solverson, a local businessman, took him to the event so he could see the products local manufacturers are making.

“He’s like a sponge. He saw people chatting and handing out their cards and shaking hands, so he started doing that too,” Kuelling said.

That event got him attention in local media. Then came interviews with MSNBC, CBS, Fox and the Chicago Tribune. Next week, he flies to Los Angeles to be on “The Bonnie Hunt Show.”

In the midst of this, he’s still a kid, his mom said, and he makes plenty of time to play with friends and do nonwork stuff.

“We go to the store and he doesn’t want to look at tiny suits,” Kuelling said. “He wants to look at Legos.”

Buckman, from the Good Feet store, brings his grandchildren to the store to help out sometimes. They also have done job applications and interviews.

“When a child shows an interest in something, that’s when the creative juices are flowing,” Buckman said. “Who knows? He may be one of the next great minds starting a corporation or coming up with an idea.”

Thomas V. Bona can be reached at (815) 987-1343 ortbona@rrstar.com.