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The Current

Bruin entrepreneurs explore business ventures

Sophomore Bailey Ham sold painted jeans and other crafts over the summer at the Thursday Night Market in Grass Valley, Calif. Photo by Morgan Ham

Shubham Banerjee. Cynthia Sin Nga Lam. Boyan Slat. 

While these names aren’t as well-known as “Einstein” or “Thomas Edison,” these young people, ranging from ages 13-19 when they first created their world-changing inventions, made their own, significant mark in the world. Whether they created a water purifier that also produces electricity or a DIY Braille Printer, all of these ambitious teens have one thing in common – they are all entrepreneurs.

Of course, not all entrepreneurs start out big—sometimes the greatest begin small, building their own ‘company’ offering services such as babysitting, walking dogs, or selling handmade products. Bear River High School has a few students who have stepped up as budding entrepreneurs to initiate their own businesses. 

Incoming Junior Connor McGehee is a prime example of an eager student entrepreneur, currently running two businesses.

“I am a photographer,” he said. “I have been taking pictures professionally for a few years now. … I also have another business in which I buy bottle baby dairy heifers from dairy companies, and raise and breed them to sell them back to the dairies within a few weeks of them calving. … It was an easy way for me to make money while doing something that I love.”

Another business that has been started is The Bee’s Knees, created by incoming Sophomore Bailey Ham, along with incoming Junior Emily Adamson. In this partnership, they design a variety of products, including painted jeans and hand-made scrunchies, which they sell weekly at the Thursday Night Market in Downtown Grass Valley.

Ham explained how the two of them came up with the idea for this business.

“I really wanted to do something this summer that was fun, and pushed me to try new things,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to start a business, and I finally did it, with one of my really good friends too! I think having Emily in this adventure with me really helps, as she is the one who taught me many of the skills for the items we’ve been creating.”

Adamson described how she is involved with the business.

“I have helped come up with the name and have started designing the logo,” she said. “I haven’t made anything to sell so far since I’m so busy this summer, but I’m helping with what I can.”

As Adamson proves, being involved with a budding business involves a lot of logistics and requires more than simply having a product to sell. There are a lot of different aspects and challenges to consider when first formulating a business plan. Jennifer Ham, mother of Bailey Ham, explained how creating a business is something to be proud of.

“It takes drive and ambition and at times direction for organization [to create your own business],” she said. “Students should be more inclined to start their own business to explore their interests, meet a need they see in the community, make money, develop advanced problem solving skills, and to build self-confidence.”

McGehee described one of these many challenges young entrepreneurs face, especially in the photography business.

“The biggest challenge I found starting my business, and I still have now, is that in our area there are so many good photographers, it’s hard to find clients sometimes since I am so young,” he said. “People tend to think I am not as good or experienced.”

Despite bumps in the road, these students have continued to pursue their dreams, and often, relatives or friends have helped motivate these entrepreneurs, and therefore are an important part of their success.  

McGehee said that when he first started out his dairy cow business, he had a little help from a local dairy man, Mike Blagg. 

Jennifer Ham discussed how parents can have an influential role in their children’s aspirations.

“I believe if we talk to them like adults, all while encouraging them to follow through with aspirations, it can inspire them to create their own business,” she said.

Ham commented on how her parents were involved with the process of starting The Bee’s Knees.

“My parents of course helped me with some things, but it was mainly me doing research online and reading a whole lot of articles and blogs about this kind of stuff,” she said.

Jennifer Ham later pointed out that there are many benefits to starting a business at such a young age, including money management, organizational skills, and a good work ethic. These are the types of life-long lessons that aren’t taught in school, but are just as important to uphold, which Bailey Ham said that she realized herself after creating her business with Adamson.

“I have really learned how to deal with money through this, and how to be mainly independent, which is something needed for the real world,” she said. “I feel that school really doesn’t prepare us to deal with money, profits, and interest as much as we are prepared for other things.”

McGehee and Bailey Ham both shared their favorite part about running their separate businesses.

“The thing I enjoy most about running my own business is that I can make my own schedule,” McGeehee said. “[And] seeing [the cows] go from being little babies who nurse on the bottle multiple times a day to these big pregnant cows … and knowing that I did a good job raising them. It’s always about getting experience and getting better at something I love doing.”

“I really enjoy making everything, as it is so much fun to sit down and create something for someone else to enjoy,” said Ham. “I learn something new every time, and my skills keep improving.”

McGehee described why everyone should try creating their own business out of something they love doing.

“Running your own business can be hard at times, but it is very rewarding in the long run to see where you started from and where you are now,” he said.

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Bruin entrepreneurs explore business ventures