Since I was in elementary school i’ve been an entrepreneur. My first business was a dog walking business. I printed business cards and landed my first client the first week in business. Although that client was my dad and I was walking my own dog, I convinced him to pay me for my services.
That was my first taste of entrepreneurship and since then i’ve never looked back.
My next business I started was during my freshmen year of high school. I made bedazzled jean bracelets out of old pairs of jeans and donated buttons. I began selling them for $10, $15, & $20 dollars, depending on how it was bedazzled. I sold only through word of mouth and my sales were pretty good being that my only cost was my time and my bedazzling machine. I continued making these bracelets until a bigger idea came to my mind.
I was at the mall one day during the summer before my senior year of high school when I stopped into the store Delia’s (remember that store?). They were known for their display of graphic tees. As I was looking through the designs on the wall I spotted one that really stood out to me. It was a graphic of a hand holding up a peace sign but the palm of the hand was shaped as the continent Africa.
When I held the shirt in my hand I immediately looked at the tag and on it described the mission behind this shirt: End poverty in Africa by 2025. Now this was a pretty big goal but i’m a pretty big dreamer so right away I felt inspired to help this company reach this goal. I bought the shirt, went home, and ran right upstairs to the computer. I looked up the company, OmniPeace. On their website I saw celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, and Zac Efron all wearing the shirt I just bought!
Whoa I thought, now I really have to get involved!
The ideas began to pour through my head as I was looking through their website. One thing stood out to me in particular. They had no jewelry in their shop, only graphic tees, a chocolate bar, and a bag. I had my winning idea. I would create bracelets for them and donate a percentage of the profits to their cause.
I emailed my idea to every contact I could find that was linked to OmniPeace somehow. Day after day I would check my email. Nothing. One month later… still nothing.
Three months later… I received an email from the Founder’s assistant! She told me that Mary Fanaro, the Founder, would like to set up a conference call with me to discuss! What the what I thought?!?!
I prepared my notes before my call with her. I went over every possible question she may ask and I knew all the ins and outs about my strategy on how I was going to create the bracelets.
The call was a success! She was handing over the license to me to become the sole jewelry designer for OmniPeace. A senior, in high school, now is the only person who has the license to design jewelry for this celebrity-backed social fashion brand!
I was beside myself with joy. Now, I had to figure out how to execute on my strategy. I designed the bracelets using pen and paper, researched the right materials that would be cost efficient and of high quality, found a manufacturer, used my savings to pay for the molding and first-run, designed the packaging, and created my own logo as the designer. Seven months later I was ready to begin selling.
I started selling to my friends and family. Then began selling to my entire high school through word of mouth. After graduation I moved to Gainesville to start college at the University of Florida. This is when I knew I had to create a website to sell my bracelets to more people. I created my first website on the free Mac application iWeb and began selling online. I also got OmniPeace to post my bracelets on their website which linked to my sales page.
Within a few weeks I started receiving orders from all over the world. China, Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, United Kingdom, and France! At first my contract stated my territory as the United States, it then changed to… The World! I got written up in my school newspaper and was running a full business out of my freshman dorm room.
Since my first dog walking business I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. I got the “entrepreneur bug” some may say but in my viewpoint, entrepreneurship has always been in my DNA. Now, I’m running 3 companies, one being a non-profit organization, and traveling the world pursuing my passion.
Throughout this journey i’ve learned two important lessons that are a MUST to be able to make your entrepreneurial endeavors a success and those 2 lessons are: Dream big and believe in yourself.
If I kept my dreams small i’d still be making jean bracelets with my little bedazzler machine but instead, I allowed myself to dream big which led me to designing jewelry for the L.A. based fashion company, OmniPeace and donating hundreds of dollars which went towards building a school in Africa. This opportunity, working with OmniPeace, also connected me with my first internship in New York City which is where I had the inspiration to start Hello Perfect®.
Dreaming big is only half of the equation though, you must must must believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in you, how will anyone else? With every endeavor I pursued, I pursued it with full faith in myself. From selling the jean bracelets to contacting a well-known fashion brand when I was just a senior in high school. It was this belief that pushed me through the obstacles, struggles, and failures, and it still does. Even to this day, I have been able to continue to grow my business with my health issues because I believe in myself. I believe that I can accomplish my dreams even when i’m struggling with my health or whatever else is going on in my life.
My most current entrepreneurial endeavor is the Women Empower Expo which will be the largest women’s expo in South Florida. My experiences have led me to creating this event because I want women to see how they can live a life they love. They can raise a family, take care of themselves, and build their dream empire. The event will feature hundreds of booths of women entrepreneurs showcasing their products and services, inspiring speakers, fitness classes, educational workshops, shopping, networking, and more. When I had the idea for this event, I was kind of hesitant to pursue it because it would be the biggest event and investment I’ve made in my business so far. But, if I stay true to what I believe in then I know that I can make this “big dream” a reality.
We all feel fear, doubt, and insecurity when pursuing something new for the first time. I feel it all the time working on the Women Empower Expo but I challenge these feelings with positive ones.
So I say it’s time for you to pursue your dreams. No matter your gender, background, past, family culture, or money situation you have everything you need right now to go after what you want.
Dream big and believe in yourself.