In 2020, Ajiah Wilson-Bronson was scrolling through Instagram and noticed a lot of women and girls wearing jewelry – something she didn’t have much of herself.
“Instead of just saying, ‘Oh, I want that,’ I asked myself, ‘How can I make that?’” says Wilson-Bronson, a 17-year-old student who is about to enter her senior year at International Academy of Flint. “And then I asked, ‘How can I sell it to others?’”
Thankfully, this experience aligned with her participation in YouthQuest, an afterschool enrichment program that offers youth entrepreneurship activities. As part of the eight-month YQ Biz program—provided in partnership with Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) and the Young Entrepreneur Institute (YEI) — Wilson-Bronson and other students learned how to create a business plan and were challenged to start their own entrepreneurial venture.
In Wilson-Bronson’s case, she started Charmed, a jewelry business that promotes individuality by creating and selling charm bracelets in the Flint area. She buys bracelet bands and charms from various vendors online and then combines them to make unique jewelry options that she can sell for a profit.
Since then, Charmed’s owner has learned quite a bit about what it takes to run a business. So, she recently sat down with the editors of Afterschool Download to share a few tips for other teens interested in making their business ideas a reality. Her top five recommendations are as follows.
- Create a strong business plan and stick to it.
This is a document that outlines your business’ mission, goals and other key information. This keeps you on track and reminds you why and how you’re doing what you do. In June, Wilson-Bronson impressed other local business owners by sharing her business plan during YouthQuest’s Hustle Hard Business Pitch competition. Not only did she win first place for her business pitch, she was also featured in an article from the Flint Courier.
- Find a suitable mentor.
In Wilson-Bronson’s case, that mentor was Jimantra Grant, the middle school/high school youth entrepreneur coordinator for YouthQuest/GISD in partnership with YEI. Grant was able to offer her valuable insight as it related to things like marketing, pitch creation and financing opportunities. Wilson-Bronson said that guidance is what helped her to take Charmed from idea to reality.
- Keep your ears open for advice. There is always something to learn.
Through YQ Biz, Wilson-Bronson had the opportunity to promote her business during a monthly market day at the Flint Farmers’ Market. There, she earned over $1,000 that she was able to reinvest in her business and spend on herself. At first, she thought her target demographic was other teen girls. But she found that her audience at the market was wider than that – people would buy the product for girls and women of all ages. And, what’s more, guys expressed interest in her product, too. Looking forward, she says she plans to expand her jewelry line to include men’s jewelry as well.
- Do not overwork yourself. It’s okay to relax.
Wilson-Bronson spends at least a few hours a day, three to four days a week, working on her business. She also makes time for school and – to avoid burnout – she also prioritizes spending time with her friends.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have helpful resources, use them wisely and to your advantage.
Not only did YQ Biz provide her with important guidance, funding and connections, it allowed her to attend the NextGen Summit in New York, where she heard from inspiring speakers and networked with other young leaders. For anyone interested in starting their own business, Wilson-Bronson says, “I definitely recommend applying for YouthQuest so you can participate in YQ Biz. It taught me a lot about starting my business.”
Looking forward, Wilson-Bronson plans to develop an online presence so she can sell and ship her jewelry to customers outside of the area. Stay tuned for updates related to her business!
YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.