Little fish in a big pond; student entrepreneurs make waves in business market

by Hayley Golden

The widely influential business writer Peter Drucker once said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Millions of people have taken this advice to heart, with three of them being right here at Marian.

Seniors McKenzie Blaine and Lily Nelson and sophomore Daisy Owen all maintain and operate their own business. To some, it may sound outrageous for a teenager to be an entrepreneur, but for these three, it’s just a part of their daily life.

McKenzie photo smallBlaine, who runs a business creating jewelry out of gemstones, always had a passion for creativity. “I had always been into gemstones and making my own jewelry. When I was really young I always got bead kits and made necklaces and stuff, so, it kind of stemmed off of that,” Blaine said.

Blaine also noted that she wanted an alternative to buying expensive jewelry. “I didn’t want to pay a bunch of money for a necklace that wasn’t even worth it, and I thought it was more authentic to make it myself,” Blaine said

After looking at photos online and buying a stone, Blaine created her first piece, and ultimately started her business adventure. “People started noticing that I had nice jewelry, and they’re like, ‘Oh, can you make me one?’ and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, of course. I got you girl,’” Blaine laughed.

Daisy Photo smallSimilarly, Owen also has niche for crafting and creativity. After years of creating products from duct tape, Owen eventually moved on to making and selling a product that’s been popping up everywhere-slime. “Because it’s a big deal now, I make slime. I started an Etsy because it’s so easy and everyone’s into it, so it would be an easy way to make some money,” Owen said.

daisy product

On the other hand, Nelson started her business to raise some extra cash for a school fundraiser. “I started my business originally for Walk-a-Thon to raise money for our senior class. I designed senior-themed stickers to sell. It was very successful. I raised over $200,” Nelson said.Lily photo small

All three businesses have been doing well since they first began. Owen has sold about 75 units of slime on Etsy, and Nelson’s stickers (which she now makes upon request) and Blaine’s jewelry have sold like crazy at Marian. “I don’t really have anything that’s holding me back,” Blaine said. “I’ve only been doing this for a couple of months, and everyone that receives jewelry, they’re always really happy about it.”

It’s important to note that with almost every business comes flaws. Successful businesses can take up to years to work out all the potential kinks, but it is an essential part in order for businesses to thrive.

Marian alum of ’96, co-owner of eCreamery Abby Jordan, knows this first hand.  “There are many challenges of owning our own business. For one, if there isn’t money to pay the bills, it comes down to you. If there is a major problem with production or distribution, it’s all on your shoulders. You are the end of the line. Becky and I had all the responsibility for the customers and the employees,”  Jordan said.

Not only have Jordan and her business partner Becky App been operating a successful business, but they have also been recognized across the country for their delicious merchandise, which has made appearances on “Shark Tank,” “The New York Times” and “Oprah.”

This success did not come without hard work and difficulties. “There have been many road bumps along the way. There have been bumps that would stop business for the day and bumps that have affected our business much longer term. Some of the bigger road bumps had to do with shipping a frozen product, educating America that ice cream gifts exist, plus a place to make and ship custom ice cream when we outgrew the parlor. There are many struggles but if you can get through them and learn from them you become a better operator,” Jordan said.

Although the trial and error process didn’t take nearly as long for the three student entrepreneurs as it does for some, they all still faced a few challenges while creating their businesses.

For Blaine, her main concern came from fear that the gemstone would fall out if it wasn’t worn correctly. She eventually figured out that gluing the gemstone to the metal would fix the problem.

Nelson’s biggest challenge came from price configuration. “Determining how much each sticker costs is hard for me because I don’t want to charge too high or too low,” Nelson said.

She ultimately decided $2 per sticker was a reasonable price. “I still have to pay for the materials that I use to make the stickers, but I usually make a profit,” Nelson said.

Excluding Walk-a-Thon profits, Nelson has made $140 in sticker sales.

Owen on the other hand was nervous about investing in the materials. “To do what I was trying to do I had to invest a lot in the containers and the stickers and other packaging things,” Owen said. “It got pretty expensive when I added it all up in total, so my mom gave me some loans I had to pay that off, and now everything else is profit.”

By selling to her target audience of teenagers, kids and creative consumers who want a fun way to relieve stress, Owen has been able to connect with her creative side while also earning some spare cash.

Although entrepreneurship has become a part of Blaine and Nelson’s lives in high school, neither can completely see themselves running a business as a full-time career. “I’ve considered it, but at that same time, there’s a lot more that interests me,” Blaine said. “I kind of see myself having it as a side job or a hobby more than an actual career.”

Nelson adds that although she doesn’t see herself pursuing entrepreneurship as an occupation in the future, she enjoys the work and the business she has created. “I think it is fun to have a little business and take sticker commissions. Finding easy ways to make money is great, especially when you enjoy doing it. It’s also very rewarding when I see people with the stickers I made,” Nelson said.

Though she still has time, Owen also plans on selling her products throughout college, and is considering entrepreneurship as a career. “If I don’t do that for a big job, I’ll probably have some side jobs in college and make some small amounts of money like that, because that’s what I like to do in my free time,” Owen said.

All in all, it’s important to note that pursuing entrepreneurship is a task that requires hard work and dedication. “I don’t think you can learn to be an entrepreneur. You have to really want to work, really hard. There were a few times that I wish I was somewhere else while I was building eCreamery, but it wasn’t often,” Jordan said. “The bottom line is signing up for a job you like with steady pay and benefits is the easy way out. Building a business from scratch is really hard.”

Both Blaine and Nelson have advice for students wanting to start their own business. “Just do it. I didn’t think anyone would buy my stickers, but they actually did, and it is super fun,” Nelson said.

Blaine adds that it’s important to pursue something you’re passionate about. “Do something you love. Don’t make it something where the objective is money. Never make that your motive,” Blaine said. “You always want it to be something that revolves around things that you love and what will make you happy. If you’re stressing out because you’re making so many products, it’s not worth the time to do it.”

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