by Debra Power
Becoming an entrepreneur can be a challenge at any stage of life, but two local young women can serve as an inspiration to anyone who has thought about striking out on their own.Naja Prince and Abi Middaugh are dynamic 14-year-olds who have their own businesses and recently signed on to mentor other young entrepreneurs for the Running Start program. Running Start offers workshops for middle and high school-aged youth to get the skills they need to become entrepreneurs. During the workshops, Abi and Naja will share their experiences and challenges to help their peers.
I sat down with both of these young women to hear more about their entrepreneurial journey, what motivates them to succeed, and how they strive for balance in their busy lives.
Abi Middaugh started her business, Fancy-Free Organizing (www.gofancyfree.wordpress.com) in Summer 2017. She offers professional organizing services with a flair for helping people find a place for everything in an otherwise cluttered situation.
What motivated you to start Fancy-Free Organizing?
I have always loved organizing, and my family always asks me to help with organizing — I’m the go-to person. I was running a dog-sitting business, but I shut it down and decided to try an organizing business.
How did you choose your business name?
I named it Fancy-Free Organizing because I love to help people and help them feel fancy-free because sometimes their stuff and clutter weighs them down, and it can be mentally exhausting. When they clear it out, it makes them feel better about themselves and their lives.
What is it about you as a person that makes you a good organizer?
I don’t have a natural attachment to things. Other people are attached to certain things like objects, but I don’t have that natural attachment and can say “Just get rid of it.” I don’t have a problem with that at all. I see things from an outside perspective, which is what people need. They need someone to be firm with them and tell them “You need to get rid of this because you don’t need it.” Or, I can find another way to use it — maybe frame it or make a collage. One of my clients had a bunch of ticket stubs, and she couldn’t get rid of them, so we put them into a collage.
What does the future hold for your business?
I want to continue through high school and build my business and website. After that, I want to use the extra money to buy a rental house after college so I can start my career in real estate. I like listening to podcasts about real estate and think about ways to have less stress with money in general. That’s really appealing to me. I want more freedom, and to not have to go into work every day.
What do you love about being a business owner?
I love helping people, and I love seeing their faces when they see how I can help them. I like the aesthetics of the before and after pictures and seeing how a drawer can change. I also like getting rid of stuff because it’s freeing — even if it’s other people’s stuff, it’s still satisfying.
Naja Prince formed Wag Your Tail Doggie Treats (Facebook: Wag Your Tail Doggie Treats) when she was 11. As a seasoned business owner, she had great insight into how an entrepreneur can retool their business to meet the target market. Naja’s also a serial entrepreneur who is starting a photography business.
Why did you start Wag Your Tail Doggie Treats?
I started my business because my dog didn’t like store-bought treats and started getting sick off of them. So, I started playing around to create my own that even people can eat. I went to the dog park, and they started selling, so we went to farmer’s markets and door-to-door, and now we have a business.
Is anyone else in your family a business owner?
Both of my parents are. My dad sells sweet potato pies, and my mom sells t-shirts and is a fashion stylist. I was able to see my dad’s work ethic and how it helped him. It helped me to see what they were doing. I had other ideas for a business, but it ended up being dog treats.
How does door-to-door selling work for you?
We go to people in my neighborhood or other local neighborhoods, and we ask if people have a dog and if they are interested in buying treats. It worked well — we got a lot of sales. We don’t do it as much in the winter.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I’ve learned how to manage my money and be more self-sufficient. I like to go to the mall, but I also have a business to run. It’s like my mom says: “If you work hard, you play hard.” Scheduling is also really important and knowing what you want to do before you do it. Surround yourself with people who are time-efficient as well.
What’s the future look like for Wag Your Tail Doggie Treats?
Right now we are working on reorganizing and rebranding the business so we can be more efficient when we try to approach stores with the treats. I’d like to get into local stores and support the community and young entrepreneurs. We have been working on a contract for distribution so that young children to about age 18 can start distributing our treats and having their own little business. This will teach them how to own a business. You need to be more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial, and being able to teach youth about that is a privilege. I also see our treats in stores in the next two years, and our own stores in ten years.
Debra Power is the Founder & President of Running Start (www.running-start.biz) and President of Power Marketing Research (www.getresearchpower.com). She wishes programs like Running Start existed when she was young.