When Brian Weisfeld’s daughter struggled to sell cookies for her Girl Scout troop, he realized that girls lacked inspirational and empowering tools to foster their budding entrepreneurship. It spurred him to create The Startup Squad, a series of middle grade books designed to help teach business skills and a growth mindset and to spotlight girl CEOs on his website to “create community for girl entrepreneurs and to provide models for girls just getting started with a business.” Since then, the Startup Squad has grown to provide resources and a online community for girl CEOs to learn and connect.
Today TheWMarketplace and The Startup Squad are announcing a partnership that will expand the reach of companies owned and run by teen and tween entrepreneurs by providing them with a new online marketplace to sell their products. Our Teen Collection features products made by girl entrepreneurs who’ve been mentored by the Startup Squad.
Last week, we asked three of these young businesswomen – Ava Dorsey, Anna Brekken and Sabrina Roesler – about what it means to be an entrepreneur. Not surprisingly, their answers are incredibly nuanced and self-reflective.
“Entrepreneurship means that I can create my own future doing what I love and am passionate about. It means that I can work for myself and hopefully be an inspiration to other teen entrepreneurs and children,” said 9th grader Ava Dorsey of Ava’s Pet Palace. “I know that the road of entrepreneurship can be hard, but it is totally worth it to work hard and be able to live out your dreams of doing what you love!”
“Entrepreneurship is perseverance,” commented Anna Brekken of AnnaMade Design Company. “It’s refusing to give up, even when things are challenging. It’s having courage to try new things. It’s humility and being able to take advice from people who are where you want to be. It’s setting goals – and pursuing things that excite you. It’s being teachable, and learning from your ‘failures’ instead of holding onto perfectionism.”
“Entrepreneurship is a way to be independent and do what you like the most,” added 10 year old Sabrina Roesler from Fresh’n Juicy LLC. “It’s a way to learn leadership skills and people skills.”
Fresh'n Juicy has been in business for three years. In and around her hometown of Sugar Land, Texas, Sabrina sells lemonade and baked goods, but now she is branching out to offer accessories and gifts. “I get to learn things my mom said she learned when in college.” She received one of her first marketing lessons early on, such as “choosing a name can get you compromised with only one product.” Now that she’s selling tumblers, hair scrunchies and necklaces, Sabrina is glad her brand is broad enough to have room for growth beyond her signature lemonade stand.
Anna Brekken was inspired by her grandmother, who taught her not only how to write a thoughtful note to someone, but also to make her own gorgeous cards. Anna has been making and selling handmade cards since 2018. “When I started AnnaMade Designs, I learned a lot from older entrepreneurs about product photography, selling at craft fairs and SEO for online shops,” she said. Now she’s excited to join TheWMarketplace to expand her customer base to people “who are looking for stylish, fun and personal ways to celebrate birthdays and other holidays.”
Of the three entrepreneurs, Ava Dorsey has been in business the longest. She started Ava’s Pet Palace, an organic pet food brand, in 2016 when she was eight years old. She started small, with craft fairs and word of mouth, but things really got going last year when her dog treats were added to all Pet People stores nationwide. “I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that success does not happen overnight,” she commented. Ava initially struggled with people taking her seriously. “Adults may think you are not serious or dedicated to your business because you aren’t an adult, but I don’t think that is true!” She credits her family with creating a support system to keep her grounded and focused, and adds that “there will be lots of ups and downs, and we have to push past those if it’s something we are truly passionate about.”
The Startup Squad’s Brain Weisfeld has found it inspiring to work with each of these three young entrepreneurs, and to see them continue to grow and build their businesses. He has a motto that he tells school groups that he speaks with: “It’s not win something, lose something. It’s win something, learn something.” And it’s very clear from hearing from Ava, Anna and Sabrina that they are learning so many things that they will be able to carry forward, whether they continue in business or focus their learning in new directions.
In addition to Ava, Anna and Sabrina's companies, TheWMarketplace is featuring products from five other tween and teen vendors. Sara Robinson's company, Sara Sews, features a variety of hand-sewn aprons, fabric lunch bags and more. Tamia Coleman-Hawkins of Mia's Treats Delight is an awesome baker and sells a variety of delicious cookies. Lyla Black works with her parents to design and create Lyla Tov Monsters, whimsical plush toys for kids. Tessa and Davia Scheeres want to eliminate plastic bottles and have created a lineup of soaps, shampoos, deodorants that are in the form of bars, not liquid, as part of their Sustainabar brand. And Madison sells flavored lip gloss in the shape of a lightbulb with her company, LipBulbs. You can shop all of these girl-owned products in TheWMarketplace's Teen Collection.