Innovative Wilson students embrace entrepreneurial ambitions during quarantine

Innovative Wilson students embrace entrepreneurial ambitions during quarantine

Graphic by Virginia Suardi

Lizzie Himmelfarb

From trading Pokémon cards and selling slime overtly overpriced, to curating legitimate businesses, Wilson students across the school have put in hours of exertion and expended hundreds of dollars to become young entrepreneurs. Several even subjected themselves to 15 minutes of vigorous questions and answers.

I interviewed four precocious business owners to learn more about the logistics and specificities of how and why they started a career in entrepreneurship. 

First, I met with Angelique Barnhardt, a senior interested in fashion who had just finished a summer internship. The idea of making a clothing brand came as an unforeseen surprise. “It was a crazy idea…I was just like ‘What if I started a clothing line?’” the senior recounted in a Zoom call. However, Barnhardt was reluctant to move forward with the concept, for she wasn’t informed well enough to build a business. So she began to trade in the Foreign Exchange Market, a financial market where she could earn money to fund her business.

Additionally, she enrolled in a mentorship program with IM (imarketslive) academy, which has a program specializing in the Foreign Exchange Market, to learn further about the subject. In August 2020, when she felt she had learned enough, she launched her business, selling hoodies and T-shirts with her brand name “Loverboy&Co.” illustrated on the front. And it was exceedingly successful. 

Navigating through starting a business alone, especially as a young entrepreneur, can be difficult. Nevertheless, Barnhardt felt prepared: “[IM Academy] helps you with time management, goal setting, and elevating your mindset,” the senior declared. Barnhardt’s mission going into the business, aside from making some cash and pursuing her passion in fashion, was to “have something with my name on it. If I build this big company, that’s going to be something that I leave behind. Kind of my print on the world. It’s expressing myself as well.” Barnhardt stated. Her advice to other young people looking to become entrepreneurs is to do your research and offer good quality products. Her clothing brand is called “Loverboy&Co.” and her website is https://loverboy-co.myshopify.com/ (which can also be found on her Instagram page @loverboybylique). 

Next, I (virtually) sat down with Ahmiayih Wright, also a senior. Her objective was to make a brand that sells products that teenage girls would be interested in at an affordable price. Specifically, Wright sells false lashes and custom necklaces. When searching for custom name necklaces, Wright says, “They were $50-$75…I don’t have that kind of money. So I was like ‘You know what, when I start my business they’ll be $20-$25, at the most.’” She accepted the money that her parents graciously offered her and began to save up to begin her business, promising that she would pay them back with the profits.

Unlike Barnhardt, Wright learned how to be a successful entrepreneur for free, through YouTube. YouTube taught her how to start a business, as well as how to make favorable financial decisions. “[YouTube] helped me save money [by] teaching me another place to find packaging (for a cheaper price),” Wright explained. To advertise her business, Wright used Shopify, a website builder, to create a professional site. She designed her logo and how she wanted the site to be organized, and Shopify helped her with the rest. In June 2020, Wright launched it. To further her advertising, the now business owner recruited three friends to be her brand ambassadors. “If they keep up their jobs, promoting, wearing [the products] out, telling people about it, they get something free. They really just help grow my business.” Wright said. Another way Wright wants to grow her business is to get her company name, “miylooks.co”, trademarked by the end of 2020. 

Her advice for other young entrepreneurs is to take your time and make thoughtful decisions. Her brand is “miylooks.co” and her website is https://miylooks.myshopify.com/ (which can also be found on her Instagram page, @miylooks.co).

Lastly, I spoke with Anna Wehebrink and Clair Lusk, both seniors. The pair specializes in making homemade tie-dyed and painted tote bags and masks. They decided to sell these products because tie-dye is trendy, and masks are in high demand, beginning this past April when Clair made Anna a bag for her birthday. Afterwards, they decided they wanted to start a business to continue this craft. “It was really casual, I felt like we just wanted something to do so we wouldn’t be bored during the coronavirus pandemic. We thought ‘What are we going to do this summer?’” Wehebrink stated. In fact, Wehebrink and Lusk both said that their primary source for learning about entrepreneurship was actually taking classes at Wilson! “I took an economics class last year [with Mr. Singer], and I realized how difficult it is [to run a business]. Calculating the costs of the materials, of our profits…and I had to learn how to use Excel sheets, which are not the most fun.” Wehebrink told. 

The pair decided to donate 20% of their profits to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI),  a non-profit organization devoted to protecting fundamental human rights through advocating for criminal justice reform and racial justice. They discovered the organization through the movie “Just Mercy”, which was adapted from the bestselling book of the same name by Bryan Stevenson. “Due to COVID-19 I spent a lot of time at home and I wanted to use my time to help out,”, Wehebrink explained, “I went to a couple of protests as well, but some are not able to because of the pandemic”. Setting up this business was a way that we can help in a safe way for us and our families.” Lusk agreed: “This is a good way to get involved without risking your family’s health.” Their brand is “Totes by C&A,” and it can be found on their Instagram page, @totesby.c.a.

These four young entrepreneurs took a huge leap of faith and launched businesses, and they did it during a pandemic. Perhaps they will inspire you to start your own business if you’ve ever thought about doing that. And, if you’re lucky, maybe I’ll interview you for my next article: “How this Wilson Student Made it onto the List of the Youngest Self-Made Billionaires.”

 Picture credits:

@miylooks.co, Instagram

@loverboybylique, Instagram

@totesby.c.a, Instagram