Biz Kids - getting started as a young entrepreneur
by John Boccacino
Transitioning a company’s website from the traditional web presence to include a more user-friendly, mobile platform can be a costly venture in terms of both time and money. Then again, not having a website that can easily be accessed on a customer’s Ipad, tablet or Smart Phone can take away valuable web traffic and potential patrons from the company, which, in turn, can cost the company business.
Enter Harry Keefe, a resident of Fairport and an ambitious web designer who hoped to aid the area’s businesses in their push to go mobile. Armed with the knowledge of how to design a website, and with ideas on how to give these assorted companies a boost in their mobile presence, Keefe formed his own company, Application Creations LLC., specializing in web design, applications and graphic design for businesses.
On the surface, Keefe’s story sounds like your run-of-the-mill business success story, where an entrepreneur studied the business landscape and identified a need that, in his estimation, wasn’t sufficiently being met.
While this pattern of identifying a need and determining the most effective method of meeting that need isn’t new or unique, Keefe’s story is.
A good majority of businesses are run by adults, but Keefe and a growing number of young adults are trying their hand at starting their own business. Keef is 16 and a junior at Fairport High School.
Keefe began improving the mobile function of area businesses such as Douglas Whitney, an attorney serving the residents of Perinton and Fairport, as well as Peter Obourn, an aspiring writer. Keefe also attracted the business of the Olde Towne Butcher, located more than 430 miles away in Fredericksburg, Va.
“I looked for [where there was] a need in local companies. I browsed my town’s directory of commerce and saw that many companies had outdated websites that hadn’t been updated in years,” says Keefe, who plans on owning his own business for the rest of his working days.Utilizing the theory of supply and demand, Keefe determined there was a significant impact to be made, and went about offering a service that was beneficial to both the specific business and the members of the community.
“I also considered my competition,” he says. “There were two main companies that provided web design services in my area. With less overhead than the larger design companies, I was able to price my products two or three times lower [than the competition] while still being profitable.”
Building a Business
The benefits for young adults creating and running their own businesses are numerous – from learning responsibility, money and time management and planning to becoming businesssavvy. But how, exactly, does an aspiring youth such as Keefe go from concept to owning his own business?
All it took was hard work, planning and a little luck to land the right customers, says Keefe.
After filling out the paperwork to create a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), Keefe set up bank accounts and then established his company’s brand, its logo, website (www.applicationcreations. net), business cards and letterhead. All the while he went about promoting his new business by chatting with friends, family members and strangers.
Building a business is also about networking. When Keefe was setting up his bank accounts, he distributed his business card to his banker, who in turn gave the card to a potential client who has since enlisted his help in improving his mobile web presence.
“This whole experience has helped my development immensely,” says Keefe, who says his best advice to an aspiring entrepreneur is just to go for it, and that those who provide quality goods and/or services at an affordable price will be successful. “Working on school and the business simultaneously taught me to manage my time well and to have a better work ethic.”
Carson Klasner and her twin sister, Selene, had been involved in the theatre for a while, both as actors and as members of a musical, when they recently agreed to manage the concessions at Stages, a non-profit community theatre. The duo was asked to sell fresh flowers to present to cast members following the conclusion of a show. However the sisters quickly learned that the fresh flowers didn’t last long, and that led them to search for a more viable alternative.
Opting for wooden flowers instead, the Klasner sisters started their own business, Sister Act Flower Fundraising. Their company allows performing arts groups to make money by selling these wooden rose bouquets at their performances. The Klasners purchase all the supplies and craft the bouquets, and the performing arts group sells the flowers for a percentage of the profit. The Klasners are hoping to raise money for the arts through their business venture.
Before their company could launch, the Klasners had to track down suppliers for the wooden flowers, sleeves for the flowers, ribbons and dried baby’s breath to complete the ensemble. They researched the various prices of the local stores for the lowest prices, then established both their own prices and their profit ranges.
After creating a marketing pamphlet for Sister Act Flower Fundraising, the Klasner’s discovered there was a high demand for these bouquets and they have since distributed thousands.“I think a lot of young people have great ideas for a business, but they don’t know where to start,” says Carson Klasner, 16, a junior at Webster Thomas.
“Owning a business takes a lot of courage and requires a high level of responsibility.” Her advice for getting started?“ [Interested youths] should be open to the help and the ideas of your parents or other adults,” Carson says. “It’s hard to see the bigger picture, especially when you are young. Make a plan and stick to it, and never let a customer down.”
Shaping Young Entrepreneurs
Of course, it’s only natural for interested youths who want to form their own business to have questions. Thankfully Rochester is home to several great resources for these children and their parents.
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Is a year-long series of classes (30 weeks) that take interested middle and high school students and helps mold them into well-versed businesspeople. Students learn to construct well-defined business plans, do their own market research, propose their business idea to potential investors and cap it off by launching and running their own companies.
The classes are divided into three sections: The Big Idea is a series of classes where students identify their passions and interests while thinking about how those can be turned into a business opportunity. During the business plan and pitch phase students do research and conceive ways to turn their passions And ideas into a practical and workable business model. Students then meet with potential investors to discuss their start-up idea. Lastly, once the start-up capital has been secured, students undergo the launch phase of the classes, where they execute their business plan through registering for a Doing Business As (DBA), open businessbased bank accounts and file for a tax EIN number, just as real-world adults who are starting their own companies would do.
YEA! Classes start up across the country in November, and applications are currently being offered to interested students in Rochester and the surrounding counties. Classes occur at three sites — the University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo and downtown Rochester.
Among the YEA!’s success stories, Gayle Jagel, YEA!’s founder and C.E.O., highlights the stories of Connor Wilkins, a freshman at Livonia High School, and Kathryn Perry, a Roberts Wesleyan College sophomore, as best typifying the entrepreneurial spirit.
Wilkins won a $20,000 scholarship to RIT after designing a silicon wristband that can be customized to match one’s Croc footwear, while Perry launched a business called Elite Sweets (www.myelitesweets.org) that features her own cookie and baked goods creations.
“The most important thing to keep in mind about starting a business is to be sure your business is about something you love, and that you have really thought out a great strategic plan to help keep you on track to accomplish your goals,” Jagel says when asked to identify the best advice for parents and children to consider when starting a business.
If ever a youth needs to seek inspiration when it comes to opening their own business, WXXI-TV runs a television program, Biz Kid$ (www.bizkids.com), that highlights the hundreds of successful youth entrepreneurs in town. Biz Kid$ has been on the air for 65 episodes, and airs Fridays at 5:30 pm and again Sundays at 10:30 am.
“All types of young people start their own businesses,” says Jill Kemp, with WXXI. “You can see evidence of that on a summer day, as lemonade stands sprout up around town and enterprising students seek jobs cutting lawns and doing yard work.”
So what does it take to be a young entrepreneur? Kemp says, “People who are determined, organized and flexible are Often successful businessmen and women, whether they are students or adults.” And the befits are numerous. “Developing and running a business improves organizational skills, builds budgeting/money management experience and increases a student’s maturity and sense of responsibility,” she adds.
For students wishing to know more about starting a business, there is a “Let’s Go” flyer that contains pointers on how to run a start-up business. Parents and youths can email Kemp at email@example.com or send a letter to: Biz Kid$ Let’s Go/WXXI, 280 State Street, Rochester, N. Y., 14614.
Additionally, the city of Rochester also offers a Biz Kid$ summer camp (no relation to the television series) for students who reside in the city. For more information on the summer camp, visit www.cityofrochester. gov/bizkids/.
John Boccacino is a frequent contributor to Rochester Area & Genesee Valley Parent Magazine. He lives in Webster, NY and reported on sports and local news for more than 6 1/2 years with the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. He is currently the Director of Sports Information for Keuka College.