Without Fear of Failure

As an 18-year-old entrepreneur with a growing business, I have learned that change isn’t good, it’s essential.

In addition to multiplication and long division, fourth grade taught me valuable lessons in capitalism. In elementary school, we functioned in a free snack trade economy. Like most kids who didn’t enjoy the treats their moms packed in their lunch boxes, I would exchange with my classmates. Because there were no vending machines or candy counters at my school, the barter system was our only option. One day, one of my classmates was eager for my snack but I had no interest in what he had to offer. After a few rounds of negotiations, he offered me a dollar for my snack. That was the day I realized, why barter for snacks when I could sell outright to other students and make cash? Within days, I had a full-fledged convenience store running out of my desk. I sold everything from juice boxes to cookies to Fruit Roll-Ups. I was making $15 a day easily. Not a bad living for a nine-year-old.

Three years later, I was in seventh grade and my middle school had a small store where kids could buy a variety of snacks. To stay competitive against the school’s inventory, I started selling my homemade brownies. High school was yet another transition for both me and my business. Going to a city high school like mine with more than 4,000 students created a new challenge: brand recognition. Word soon got out about a freshman selling homemade brownies; but because there were so many students, most kids didn’t know me by name. Soon even teachers wanted to buy my brownies to have with their morning cup of coffee. I would get stopped in the hallway and asked if I was the “Brownie Girl.” I knew I not only had a great product and a bigger market, but I had found an official business name, “Brownie Girl.”

By senior year, I felt I was getting too old to be called “Brownie Girl” and decided to rename the business to reflect a broader demographic: Fudge You! The name not only covered what I was producing, but it allowed me to expand my business to other markets and products (like my homemade fudge). This past winter, I expanded further and sold T-shirts that said FUDGE YOU! The kids went crazy for them at my school. This fall, a complete collection of several T-shirt designs will be available. I also recently launched a line of brownie-pops.

I graduated from high school in June and am headed to the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan later this year, where I will compete with many other talented bakers and pastry chefs. In time I will expand my product line and go through more transitions as I work toward meeting my next goal of owning my own bakery and café.

As an entrepreneur, I learned that to be successful I had to focus on what sets me apart from the competition. If you’re a teen like me that’s easy; people are inspired by young entrepreneurs, and that in itself is a great marketing tool. Creativity is also important. As my mom says, kids are very creative by nature because they haven’t yet been conditioned to think just one way and they still have the innocence to experiment without fear of failure.