17-Year-Old Heads $24 Million Business Started at Age 14

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If your son or daughter asks for money to buy a car, tell him or her to start a business instead. That’s what parents Chrissy and Warren Weems told their daughter Isabella, then 14.

Today, at 17, Isabella Weems not only has a new white Jeep she acquired with profits from her new business. She is the founder of a custom jewelry and accessories business worth $24 million as of 2012. The company expects to make many times that amount by the end of this year.

Weems’ company, Origami Owl, leverages 50,887 independent associates who buy products at discount prices and sell them at private parties held in homes or other locations.

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In a recent interview with Forbes, she laid out her simple strategy for launching her business:

“The locket’s been around for a long time and I thought, ‘Well, what if you could make a locket with charms?’” Weems asked her parents to match the $350 she’d earned for babysitting, which she then spent on wholesale components to make her lockets. She quickly leveraged her network of friends to find buyers. ‘We started selling our product at house parties and boutiques and selling at any jewelry show we could. The product started selling itself.’ In 2010 Weems opened a kiosk at the Chandler, Arizona mall in time for Black Friday shoppers.”

The company is also building a new IT platform that will allow associates to access webinars, videos and other training as well as order more products and track sales.

Of course, becoming an Oragami Owl associate may not be the right business for everyone. Forbes observes that as associates use up their lists of personal contacts and local boutiques, sales can require some real chutzpah. (And, of course, the more associates that sign up, the more saturated the market becomes.)

But Weems’ story is nonetheless a great example of what determination can do – even for the youngest of entrepreneurs.

Images: Origami Owl


Shawn Hessinger - Editor

Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

11 Reactions

  1. I agree that more children should be encouraged to be entrepreneurial. If you succeed important lessons are learned and if you fail another set of important lessons can be learner. Win-win.

  2. Her success is mostly due to her connections. Don’t get me wrong. I am not here to bash her or anything. It is just that she started in a niche where she has connections to begin with. I guess that makes it a perfect niche for her and that’s why she’s a success. But I think this is something that depends less on the actual product or service and more because she knows a lot of people who she can convince to buy.

    • I don’t think it’s mostly due to her connections. It definitely has a part to play in her success, but connections mean nothing if you lack initiative, entrepreneurship, business acumen, purpose and drive. Those are just as important and contributory to one’s success.

  3. What a great story. Isabella is a shining example to all our youth. Thanks for sharing this story with us. There has to be more like this out there.

  4. Wow! How i wish I was in her place. So young and yet so successful. I think the combination of great products, connections and marketing strategy makes this business a success.

  5. What a great story! Heck, I’m not even her dad and l am proud of her…

  6. Great idea, so really well done! Inspiration for other youngsters and highlights there’s plenty of good ideas waiting to be created. :o)

    Merry Xmas to all.

  7. Very admirable that at 17, she’s become such a success. I see the signs from the $350 she’d earned from babysitting (when she was younger) and the fact she hadn’t spent it. And also the fact that she asked her family to match it. That shows business acumen.

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