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Teen Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rebekah Willis

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

 

People are always asking us, "Who is StartingUp Now for?" Our answer: Whoever wants to start a business!

The accessibility and simplicity of StartingUp Now has benefited both youth and adults alike, including budding teen entrepreneurs like Rebekah Willis.

Rebekah, 16, and her two siblings got their first taste of entrepreneurship two years ago under Brian Jenkins' leadership as he guided them through the completion of their business plans. It was during this time that Brian developed the content for his book, StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business, and tested his concepts on the Willis siblings. Their training culminated into a business pitch presentation in front of several business and community leaders who provided critical feedback on the viability of their business plans.

Currently, Rebekah operates a growing granola business from her home, stating, "I'm excited and a little nervous about this venture. The response has been huge."

Bright, talented, and industrious, Rebekah represents the new generation of young entrepreneurs who are juggling multiple projects and responsibilities. Hailing from a family of 10 children, Rebekah is a home schooled student, part-time graphic designer and editor for Enduring Endeavors II, Inc., and performs in a music group.

As one of her dozens of customers, I've had the pleasure of enjoying her delicious, homemade granola and was excited to catch up with her for this recent interview.

Did you ever see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why did you start your business?

Proverbs 31 in the Bible describes a woman of noble virtue. She has many home-oriented characteristics and one of them is the ability to produce marketable goods and sell them. This spring, I had the privilege to join about twenty youth in an Irish music competition. We took first in regionals, so we will compete at the world championship in Ireland...and I have to pay my way. So I pulled Grandma's old granola recipe out and put it to work. My intentions were not--and still are not--to start a huge business, but to earn money while still fulfilling my responsibilities at home.

Everyone experiences challenges in the process of starting a business. What have been the most surprising challenges you've faced?

I made my fundraising intentions clear from the start. Many friends and neighbors who have had my granola in the past have been very supportive. Their word-of-mouth marketing is my best marketing tool. One lady commented that she appreciates someone working hard to earn money rather than asking for donations. However, not all customers have been easy to work with. After a scheduled pick-up date, I still have bags of granola sitting by the front door. I have found that communication with customers is vital, but it is hard to work with their shortcomings.

How has StartingUp Now helped you in your business planning?

StartingUp Now helped me most with the financial side of entrepreneurship. I learned about startup-costs, on-going costs, gross income, and net income. I learned how to set prices so I cover my costs with buffer room and how to be competitive at the same time.

What advice or key takeaways can you share with other new or aspiring entrepreneurs?

First, be ready for some hard work. It may not pay off right away, but it will strengthen the business and it will strengthen you. I had to stir about 50 pounds of oats on one day. I had some sore forearms that week! But when a customer later asked if my mom helped me or if I did everything myself, I was able to confirm my own work and give her reason to trust me and my business.

Second, communicate. A tech-reliant culture creates more opportunities to promote your business, but it also makes customers more reliant on reminders. Don't hound them all week--personally, I would delete nagging messages sent to me. Be wise in your timing. Be brief. Be consistent.

Third, start simply. Rather than offering variety, start with your niche. Now that I have a good customer base and a good reputation, I can start selling scones or cinnamon rolls or other goodies. But to start with everything at once would be overwhelming to me and perhaps produce a product of lesser quality.

How can people interested in ordering your granola contact you?

You can reach me at rebekahlynn@me.com.

 


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