The following essay was written by Jessica Ware, a finalist for the 2018 SuretyBonds.com Small Business Scholarship.
Ever since I was a kid, my dad, a small business owner, has told me that I would make a great business woman. I have grown up coming up with company names, ideas, and marketing strategies, and although most of them have been rather silly, I have always enjoyed doing so. Even though I have always enjoyed the idea of business, the thought of it as a career had never crossed my mind until the middle of my junior year when I applied for an entrepreneur class called Sangamon CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities). First semester, our class executed a class business in order to provide seed money for our second-semester project, a personal business. Each student was tasked with coming up with a business idea and developing it enough so it may later be pitched to a local ‘shark tank’ event. Although carrying out the idea and attempting to make a profit is not a requirement, my business partner, Emily Eades, and I took on the task of actually running our business.
Our business is called W.E. Recycle, the name itself outlines our business model, which is the two of us – Ware and Eades – working together towards our one goal of recycling with our shared passion of crafting. The first aspect of our business is our handmade headbands made from 100% recycled materials that were donated to us. From this donated material we also create other products such as dog toys, garland, and hair ties. The second aspect of our business is unique and hand-lettered greeting cards also made from 100% recycled material. We design cards for all different occasions and also take custom orders. In addition, 10% of our proceeds will be going to a foundation in Kenya that is working to reduce the litter problem they have there. This organization is making an attempt at getting the government to take action and set up a trash collection system while also implementing programs to help encourage citizens to clean up their streets. Our reasoning behind choosing this organization is because of my past experience and passion for helping those in Kenya. This past summer I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a missions trip to Nairobi where I visited various schools and met so many amazing children and people. I saw firsthand these people walk through the litter which covered almost every inch of their streets. Although litter is not the only social issue in the slums of Nairobi, it is one that causes further problems like disease and pollution. By supporting this project financially and raising awareness about this cause, W.E. Recycle makes our customers feel good knowing their money is going towards something beyond themselves.
In creating this business, I have learned a lot about time management, the operations of a small business, and myself. Although this business is just for a school project, I am dedicated to succeeding and use most of my free time away from other school activities to work on making products and further developing our business. I have always been involved in many activities; however, most of the activities I participate in have not required my full attention, unlike my small business. For the past few months, spare time has been thin and I have had to put much thought into where I have been spending my time. Despite the fact that my CEO class has taught me a lot, actually running a business is much easier said than done. I have learned skills regarding finances, marketing, and communications; all learned from first-hand experience. Additionally, throughout our time so far, my partner and I have learned a lot about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and been able to openly talk about them with each other which helps both of us grow as business leaders and as individuals. This business has stretched me to my limits time and time again, but each time I grow to be a better person and businesswoman.
Through my experience in the CEO program, I have already improved many personal qualities that I would not have strengthened otherwise; traits like public speaking, patience when working with others, critical thinking, and leadership skills – traits essential in the business world. This class has not only taught me these skills but has also spiked my interest in entrepreneurship and business leadership as a career. My dream job would be to own or manage a not-for-profit organization, and by running this small business now, I am getting great practice for my future endeavors. By attending such a high-ranking business school, I will further my studies in business and hopefully someday be able to achieve my goal of owning a business.
Jessica will attend Indiana University – Bloomington in the fall, pursuing a degree in marketing and minoring in psychology.