Scholarship Finalist: Adam Brodnax

From a Junior High Crush to a Bustling Small Business

It’s weird to truly wrap my mind around this platform that I’ve managed to land myself on. As a naïve, inspired boy who stayed up countless hours glued to George Lucas’s latest scene addition to Star Wars, I would have never been able to foretell the twists and turns my own plot took to where I firmly stand now. I am the co-founder of Phamax Productions, a local photography film business. Without it, I would be nothing but a mere speck of dust roaming from place to place.

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Simply so, all adventures must have a starting line and just so, there was plenty of soft chatter prior to this adventure. To be brutally honest, my passion, which had been fabricating in the recesses of my mind for quite some time, was put into practice over a middle school crush I had in seventh grade. To be concise, she liked photography, so naturally I had to be shockingly fantastic at photography. Now fast forward to the beginning of sophomore year, I was in my film class chatting to my best-friend, Kevin, about our upcoming short film project and it spawned on us that we wanted to go bigger than Vegas. Of course with our frugalness, we didn’t want to spend of what little money we had. Since Kevin had gotten into photography and I had sold t-shirts the year before, I felt that we could fund our project by starting our own photography film business. We shook hands and began our journey. As our first action of business, we ran a photo-session giveaway to accomplish two things: Establish our fan base and bolster our portfolio. After the giveaway, we exceeded our expectations by gaining seventy fans and expanding our network. At the end of our first year, Kevin and I had become great partners and gained priceless experiences.Logo Fore White (2)

Then our junior year began and DECA entered our niche. There was a. category called, “Entrepreneurs, Growing Your Business”. The DECA sponsor, Mrs. Ash, highly pushed us to enter Phamax into DECA. We already had big plans for Phamax moving into our second year but DECA allowed us to break past our expectations. We became organized financially, expanded our networks, and most importantly set higher goals so that maybe we would land in the stars. We spent grueling hours working with Mrs. Ash on our business plan critiquing, editing, improving, and defining. We took our souls, sweat, pain, aching lower backs, and our plan all the way to the 2013 DECA International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, CA. After DECA ICDC, we began to put our principles into action to reach our ultimate goal. We went from making only three-hundred dollars in 2012’s first quarter to over two thousand three hundred dollars in 2013’s first quarter. After that, we had high hopes that we could seize our ultimate goal.

 

Photo of BusinessSo what if I hadn’t crushed on this girl in 7th grade? Where would I be? More importantly, who would I be? Phamax Productions has evolved my perception on how I approach my life every day. I have learned that working collaboratively rather than individually opens endless possibilities. I have gained vast amounts of wisdom through my failures. I would never have been able to experience such revolutionary chemistry with one of my best friends. It feels awe-inspiring to be known as Phamax Productions in school, to have people ask for my advice on how they should start their own business and to relive our story of how we manage between school and business. Without Phamax Productions, I would simply not have an identity worth talking about. I would still be a speck of dust floating from room to room with no intentions. Phamax is so central to my identity because it allowed me to venture into the unknown, escape the sheltered school life, and make an impact on my community.

 

This essay was written by Adam Brodnax1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Adam and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Adam or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

Scholarship Finalist: Amy Quinto

Aaron Siskind once said, “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” While I do not shoot in film, photography is one of my most prevalent passions. It is an art form unlike any other. I fully believe that photographs do not only capture images, but moments in time that can be remembered forever.
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You always hear about people who turn their hobbies into careers. I just never thought I would be one of them.I have been taking pictures as a hobby for eight years, but I have only been shooting professionally since June of 2011 when I established my business, AQ Photography. My first photo shoot was of two adorable children that belong to a family friend of mine. Since the photographs turned out so well, I decided to advertise myself as a portrait photographer as well as a freelance photographer. Over the years I have found that I mainly take portraits, but I have also dabbled in weddings, real estate, nature, advertisement, vehicular, and merchandising photography as well.
I want my photographs to be able to change the way people look at the world. Here in the United States, high school girls are placed under so much pressure by society to follow trends and be popular, but they also are subjected to the media telling them that they are not attractive if they are not a size two. This fact has genuinely affected the way that I take photographs. I hold an annual photo shoot entitled “Beautifully Insane” in which girls of all shapes, sizes, and races come together to do take pictures and feel beautiful about themselves, exactly the way that they are. I also have started a collection of photographs that depict the social issues that students face in high school. So far I have captured pictures that represent bullying and eating disorders, and I plan to take more in the near future. While high school students may be told to be nice to their fellow students and lectured at on the dangers of eating disorders, I feel that capturing those issues in a photograph allows the viewer to see that these are not some trivial idea that they are forced to learn in the classroom. I hope that having the world see the consequences first hand can allow the viewer to gain perspective and make good choices in high school.
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In the past four years, I have worked over 400 hours in this profession. I have landed freelance jobs with local boutiques for advertisements, won several Best of Show awards for my photography in the county fair, been selected to exhibit my work in art shows and a museum, and won third-place in the statewide “Got Milk?” photography contest. I was featured as a petite model and as a photographer in a two-page spread of the August 2014 edition of Petite Magnifique magazine, won a student art show merit award, and I have created my own website to showcase my work. Along with advertising on my business’ social media pages on a weekly     basis, I usually photograph at least eight events or portrait sessions a month, and I am also the Student Life photographer at my high school.
Starting up and running my own business has been an extraordinary and fulfilling experience. But, while I have accomplished much in the past four years, I do not participate in photography for the money or the prestige. I do it because I truly love it. In a world in which media is such a huge factor of our lives, I can connect with people through the art of photography. Having this talent has allowed me to not only experience what it is like to have a job, but also to be my own boss. It has taught me responsibility, improved my communication skills, and allowed me to practice management.
Next year I plan to attend a 4-year college, most likely California State University-Chico. I will continue running my business not only through next year, but hopefully for the rest of my life. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far, and I am excited for  what the future holds for me as a photographer.
 This essay was written by Amy Quinto, 1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Amy and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Amy or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

 

Scholarship Finalist: Anne Marie Schudy

Being a small business owner means being your own boss. It means freedom, creativity, ups and downs and, let’s not forget, a healthy dose of stress. When you’re a college student as well as a small business owner, all of these things become amplified.

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I began my small shop on Etsy (an online and global marketplace for craftwork and vintage goods) as a creative outlet when I was 16. It was simply a hobby then and I never expected anything to come of it. It wasn’t a success at first. I made jewelry, I took photos of it, I listed it on Etsy, and I waited. Unfortunately I had no takers, and looking back, I understand why. I now know that I am not very good at jewelry making. Over time however, I got rid of the jewelry and developed new products as I discovered what I am good at: graphic design and trend spotting. Now I pick trends in pop culture, books, movies, etc., and turn them into coffee mugs, cards, wall art, and other products.

Now it is not uncommon to scroll through Pinterest and see one of my own products staring back at me, pinned by a complete stranger from the opposite side of the country. If someone had told me three years ago that I would have a lucrative small business that sells geeky coffee mugs with 2,300+ sales and 400 five-star reviews under my belt, I wouldn’t have believed them. To this day I’m still not sure I believe it, especially when I come across a photo of one of my mugs on Tumblr with almost 50,000 notes; it’s a bit staggering for a geek who just likes to play around on Photoshop in their free time.

It’s not all about success though. I have learned so much through my business as well. Need to know how much shipping a seven ounce package to New York City is? I’ve got you covered. Need to know how to precisely package a mug so that it won’t break on its way to London? No problem. Through my business I’ve had to deal with anything from grumpy post office workers to customers from Poland who have trouble with their English. It has made me feel in charge, powerful – unstoppable, even. Because when you’re a small business owner, and the only employee, in my case, you get the whole package. You’re not specialized in one specific process or function because you deal with everything. I communicate with thousands of customers over Etsy, I advertise over Instagram, I deal with all of the finances, as well as the designing, creating, photographing, packaging and shipping of all products. I truly feel prepared for whatever job is thrown at me in the future, whether it’s self-employment or working for someone else.

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I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone down this path; my business has been so important in my life for the past few years. It has meant that my weekends are usually spend packaging up a small tower of boxes to be shipped out on Monday morning. It has meant that I didn’t have to work part-time for minimum wage at a fast food restaurant or retail store just to pay for gas. It has meant a lot of stress and a lot of worry, but it has also meant a lot of fun and creativity. So if I had to narrow it down how my small business has made me who I am today in just a few words, I’d say it has made me confident and has made me free.

This essay was written by Anne Marie Schudy, 1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Anne Marie and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Anne Marie or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

Scholarship Finalist: Mitch Nedderman

Birds, Boating and Ben

It was the summer before my 8th grade year and my family and I took a vacation to Philadelphia.  We  enjoyed many of the historic sites but the most memorable was the Benjamin Franklin Museum.  I was amazed at all the things one man could  accomplish in a lifetime.  “Speak Little, Do Much.” I still have the photograph on my desk standing under that quote.  I  remember my mom forcing me to take that picture and not understanding, at the time, why she felt so strongly about it.  As I sit here writing  my college essay on my background/story that is so central to my identity, I now understand the meaning of  Franklin’s quote and how it relates to me.

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My entire life I’ve lived by this mantra, without even realizing it.  As a young boy my friends were busy playing sports and video games.  While I enjoyed these things on occasion, I  did not feel the same satisfaction.  My interests were different; raising game birds, boating, gardening and playing the clarinet.  I  remember noticing things the average kid probably wouldn’t pay attention to.  One time when I was about five, my sister and I were riding a merry-go-round.  She was intent on choosing the prettiest  horse while I was transfixed on watching how the machine functioned.  I  was always wondering how things worked and my parents called me a “deep thinker”.

One of my earliest memories involved game birds.  My dad thought it would  be a good life lesson to raise wild turkeys from young and release them into the wild.  I loved going down to our  barn to take care of them because it never felt like work to me.  After the turkeys left, I begged my parents for chickens.  The following  summer my dad and I built a pen and ordered twenty five.  My parents told me I had to assume responsibility so I sold eggs to my neighbors to pay for the feed.  After a fisher cat chewed a hole  in the pen door and killed all but two birds, I decided to end the bird business after ten years.

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My next idea incorporated two of my passions: food and boating.  My  summers were spent swimming and sailing at a local marina.  A friend of my parents jokingly said how nice it would be to have breakfast delivered to our boats.  I took the idea seriously and approached the dock master with the proposal of a floating catering
business.  The marina agreed.  Working with local restaurants and bakeries, I sold their muffins, bagels and donuts at  retail while they sold to me at cost, allowing a small profit.  The  smell of fresh brewed coffee and the salty air still takes me back to those early mornings when most of the town was still asleep.

 

After hearing about my summer, one of my teachers recommended the Lead  America Business and Entrepreneur program at Babson College.  During those ten days I discovered a world of inspiration.  We worked in groups with engineering students to invent and market a product.  After being elected CEO, we created an ultra-thin inflatable t-shirt for children to prevent drowning. Our team was voted number one in management.  Someday I would like to make the “air life” idea a reality and help prevent one of the leading  causes of child mortality.

 

I know there are other endeavors waiting for me to discover.  I‘ve  already begun to pursue a few.  With each new project brings challenges and adventures that I enjoy tackling.  Who knew my life experiences would take me down this path, from birds to boating to business.  Wherever and whatever I end up pursuing I know it will lead me to a
place where my passion, ethical beliefs and drive will allow me to be happy.  I may not invent the bi-focals or the Franklin stove but I know I will “Do Much.”

This essay was written by Mitch Nedderman 1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Mitch and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Mitch or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

Scholarship Finalist: Ashley Steiner

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a passion for drawing. I could always be found making cards for friends and family for every occasion I could find. During my sophomore year of high school, I created four cupcake greeting cards for some friends’ birthdays. These four cupcake drawings sparked an idea that turned my passion into a business.

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I started researching how to reproduce my artwork into products and how to market and sell them. I was very new to the business world, and I had a lot of questions that could only be answered by someone who had gone through the same trials that I had. One initial challenge was reproducing my work at the high quality that I desired, while keeping the retail prices fair for customers. Another challenge was organizing my business so that it could grow in the future. So, I e-mailed my favorite artist and lifelong inspiration, Mary Engelbreit. I did not really know if my letter would ever reach her, so I was very surprised and excited when she responded to me!

That summer, my family and I traveled to St. Louis to visit Mary at her studio. Meeting Mary and seeing her studio showed me what a passion can evolve into with dedication, motivation, and perseverance. Mary started out just like me when she was younger; a girl with a gift and a dream. Today, her company is a large corporation with products available across the world. Her advice and example has taught me a lot about running my own business and the importance of always seeking new opportunities and never giving up. After many trials and experimentations with reproducing my artwork into professional products, I succeeded in coining my processes.

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In August 2013, I started Ashley Ink, a printing press company featuring high quality reproductions of my hand-rendered illustrations. Since then, my business has grown significantly and continues to grow every day. Currently, I have an online Etsy shop, and my products are sold in stores in Arkansas and Alabama. My business has participated in shopping events including the Junior League Northwest Arkansas Boutique Show and Vintage Market Days craft show. I am always seeking new ways for my business to improve, expand, and reach more customers. I have learned a lot about being an effective leader through my role as a business owner. I have learned the importance of delegating roles and prioritizing in order to complete tasks successfully. Being a business owner has shaped me into the organized, driven, and problem-solving artist that I am today.

 

 

Without the many learning opportunities that entrepreneurship brings, such as paying monthly taxes, calculating shipping costs, and working with other businesses, I would not have gained the same experiences of working to achieve a greater goal. My business is no longer about me, but instead it is focused on serving my customers through providing them inspiration from the blessings of everyday life. My business would not be possible without the support of my customers, friends, and family. It definitely takes a village to raise a business! My next venture is licensing products, and I cannot wait to see where the future will take Ashley Ink next!

This essay was written by Ashley Steiner 1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Ashley and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Ashley or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.