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

Posted By Shawn Hessinger On December 13, 2013 @ 4:30 pm In Startup | 11 Comments

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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 [1], 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 [2] 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

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URLs in this post:

[1] Origami Owl: http://www.origamiowl.com/

[2] laid out: http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2013/10/22/250-million-for-a-14-year-olds-big-idea-origami-owl/