Advice from Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs with Three Very Different Products

by Francine Huff

How did you spend your summer? These three U.S.-based teenage innovators studied business fundamentals and learned about managing their money and their time – all through experiences with their own start-up companies. Their very different businesses are helping these young women develop skills for future careers and for life.  

Of Backpacks and Backers

Finding a backpack that met her needs and reflected her personal style was a challenge for Emily Laine Miller. That’s why she decided to create her own line of ergonomically designed backpacks that can be customized with interchangeable zipper flaps.

Miller, 16, began selling the backpacks to other kids and eventually decided to get other teens to sell them after holding focus groups with some of her friends and their parents.

“I’m always looking for ways to earn money…and pay for college,” says Miller, who co-founded Laine Avenue with her mother, Lisa. “Together, my mom and I decided we could solve both problems by creating really cool backpacks and giving teens like me a chance to sell them.”

Columbus, Ohio-based Laine Avenue signs up sales reps called “backers” to sell the backpacks through direct sales and earn a 25% commission. Backers also have access to the Laine Avenue Life Academy, which offers video lessons on personal development, financial management and relationships for a monthly fee.

“Emily would come home and share stories of friends not knowing things like the difference between a checking account and a savings account,” says Lisa Miller. She adds, “College debt is one of the biggest issues facing teens and their parents today. While we can’t solve this problem through backpacks alone, Laine Avenue gives teens the opportunity to earn money on their own time, gain entrepreneurial experience and learn valuable life skills that will set them up for future success, no matter what career path they choose.”

“Saving up is extremely important for trying to step into finances and learn about needs vs. wants,” says Emily, who will be a junior this fall. She says the mission is to help students to have opportunities to learn important life skills and earn money for college.

Big Lessons from a Teeny Wee

Sasha Worenklein began making YouTube videos about makeup when she was in middle school. After she gained a following giving advice to teens and tweens, the beauty blogger wondered if she could create her own product line.

“I first researched makeup and glosses to see where the gap is because I felt like something was missing. I felt like I should create a tiny lip gloss and that would fill in the gap. I went all over and did a ton of research. I went to stores and looked at products. I tried everything,” she says.

The 17-year old high school senior recently launched her Teeny Wee Lip Gloss line in three colors: red, pink and rose gold. The glosses are about the size of a thumb. “I wanted to create a tiny makeup I could take with me everywhere,” says Worenklein, of Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Worenklein gave out free samples of the red gloss at school, then directed her customers to the Sashaanne website to purchase the other colors. She launched the site with the help of her mom, Cindy, who says, “I needed to guide her a little bit to make certain she was doing it properly and wasn’t going to attract the wrong people. I am a mentor, but she has a strong sense of self.”

One of the lessons Sasha had to learn is “to ask questions and get help,” says Cindy Worenklein. “She had to learn that it’s not a creative world as much as a world of commerce.”

Sasha Worenklein says her support system is crucial. “My school has put me with this amazing math teacher who has helped me figure out my business and calculate my business plan,” she says. “I needed someone to help me with [money] a lot because math is not my best subject, but it’s obviously an important part of the process…I needed someone I could trust.”

Sasha advises teen entrepreneurs “You need to love what you’re doing in order to get it out there. If you’re not passionate about something, it’s never going to work…and you have to listen to advice.”

Campus Safety

After visiting several colleges in the past few years, Hunter Alves grew concerned about the safety of students walking around campus. Although many campuses have blue light security systems, she felt there should be a better way to protect students from sexual assaults and communicate with their parents.

With the help of her dad, Jeffrey, and other experts, she is developing the HOLT (Hidden Observation Location Tracker), a global tracking device that pairs with an iPhone app to contact help in a dangerous situation.

“It has a three-button system, is easily concealable, can record sound and can connect to campus security and police,” says Alves, 17. “It gives the person wearing it an added sense of security.”

“It also gives parents a sense of security,” says Jeffrey Alves. “The person wearing it can also turn the tracker on and off at their discretion.”

Hunter Alves began developing HOLT through the Spark Tank incubator at the Dwight School in New York City, from which she just graduated. The Spark Tank awarded her $4,500 to create a prototype.

Alves, who is attending the University of California at Berkeley this fall, took a business planning basics course this summer. “I learned how to use my money and the funding that I received from my school and worked on new strategies for how I want to proceed with my company; how to promote my business and work on the legal aspects as well…I definitely would say [this project] is making me think about how I want to mange my money better…in the future with this project and while I’m in college.”

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Conversation Starters

What are three things that this article teaches you about entrepreneurship?

Product development is an interesting aspect of business. What are some of the ways these three entrepreneurs decided to differentiate their products on the market? Why could that be so critical to their success?

Which of these three entrepreneurs do you identify most with and why? Want to learn more about their experiences? Ask them questions in the Comments section of this story and they just may answer you!

13 comments on “Advice from Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs with Three Very Different Products

  1. When you have a different type of product, it is unique. When a product is unique and people need that kind of product, then they will only buy your product and no one else’s. When this happens this is called a monopoly. Monopoly are good in a sense that there is no other product out there like it. Many different people choose easier product, but the thing is that they will have competition that might best them and they will lose money. If people make products that are not on the market, then the success rate will increase gradually.

  2. This article have me an idea of what you need to do to be successful. You need to love the product you are selling, as if you like it the quality will be better. You also have to love what you are doing, like making these products. And one more thing that is just as important is to have someone you can trust with your business.

  3. I learned that is important to enjoy focusing, on your product. You must know what you are selling, and know that no one else is selling, therefor you won’t have competition. Your management will run much smoother if you know what it is you are selling.

  4. Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information. Resep Masakan Chinese

  5. This article shows that in order to start a business up, you need to be passionate about it or it will go nowhere. All three girls in the article were able to take a small thing that was important to them and turn it into something that could be helpful to people everywhere, which is something I would like to be able to do. The girls were also smart in the financial aspect of starting up their company which is a huge part of making something like this happen. They were able to apply their knowledge of how money works as well as ask for help from others, which is something I would like to be able to do in the near future.

  6. I read this and immediately felt as if it was meant for me to read it. It was mainly about young women wanting to do great things at a young age. Some girls made backpacks, makeup, security apps, and more. I feel like this is a great idea. I would do it if I had such a big interest in something like that, that would seem very beneficial. It helps you manage your money and gain money for the future. I should do something like this, it doesn’t have to be so big, but at least do something. Maybe babysitting, or getting a small job can help me start saving a little. I love the encouragement it gives off for young women.

    • I agree with you on the part that this article is great when it comes to encouraging young girls. It allows them to be able to relate to other girls their age, and will hopefully give them the inspiration to start something they are passionate about.

  7. I think it’s cool that women are taking the liberty to create and sell new things. I think our mind set now a days is just take whatever you can get when it should be find what’s right for you. Those laddies are really smart because not only have they made a product that they can use and it’s to their liking but they can make millions off of it.Its also great that their starting young because then they can pay for things like college and graduate debt free.

  8. Women today are doing everything that we were always told we couldn’t. For example, we take on our own responsibilities, we are independent, and we all have our own freedom. I think it’s awesome that these girls are taking on what they want to do. They are doing what they love and succeeding. Without the love in your job or the love in what you do, there is no way you will succeed.

    • I completely agree. I think its great that in this day and age women have more confidence and expression to do what they want to do. I also agree with the last thing you wrote. From personal experience I know that there is no way you can succeed in something that you hate doing. Its great that these ladies have found something that they love doing and are pursuing it. Plus it helps that if it works out for them they will become wildly successful and make millions in such little time.

  9. These three girls can teach a young high school student a lot about entrepreneurship. All of them starting their companies at a young age, the three of them were set out for a goal, and show students to not hold back and to try to reach for the goal that they want. Anything is possible, even at such a young age and these girls proved it.

  10. There are some fascinating points in time in this article however I don know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Child Parenting

  11. This article gives realistic and relatable advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs, and personally inspires me due to the proximity of age between these entrepreneurs and myself. While there are always vibrant and ingenious ideas in the minds of young entrepreneurs, there are not only pragmatic obstacles but also emotional barriers to the launch of their projects. This article effectively addresses these obstacles by providing that much needed inspiration and encouragement to kickstart their entrepreneurial journey. Sometimes, young entrepreneurs are discouraged when adults or even their own peers tell them that they are too young to make it big, but these three girls defy that notion. Age shouldn’t be a limitation, rather it should become a factor in one’s success. These girls have all received assistance in order to become the successful entrepreneur they are today, which proposes the question of how much can the youth of today achieve if they were all mentored in the finance and business fields starting at a young age? Maybe our young entrepreneurs wouldn’t feel so confused if this were the case. As someone who has dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, I would feel more reassured and confident in pursuing my dreams if I had the right resources to utilize, hence why I believe these girls represent a modern model of young entrepreneurial success but also the holes in that journey we still need to fill.

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