With the rise of selling platforms like Shopify, Amazon and Etsy, young entrepreneurs are getting an early start at making their mark.
Take Zandra Cunningham, of Buffalo, NY, who at age 9 created Zandra Beauty, an all-natural skin-care line aimed at teen girls.
“I was obsessed with lip balms and asked my dad to buy some, but he told me ‘No — make your own,’ ” says Cunningham , now 18. “I researched YouTube and made some in simple bubble-gum flavor, using a kit. I passed it around at church and a lady gave me a dollar. I knew I could make money off it.”
Cunningham next developed soaps, sugar scrubs and body butters. Her products were a hit at area vending events, but not all artisan markets took her seriously, so, “I set up an online shop on Etsy,” she says.
Cunningham became the platform’s youngest seller to compete in its Open Call competition, during which sellers pitch buyers of retail stores.
“Paper Source picked me and placed an order for 8,000 units,” Cunningham says.
Participation in a KidBiz summer program at SUNY Buffalo State taught her business etiquette. She also completed an adult entrepreneurship program , through which she developed a business plan, gained a mentor, and defined her business goals.
In 2013, Cunningham became a girls rights ambassador, for a women empowerment organization, prompting her to incorporate social responsibility into her business.
“Finding out that girls are being enslaved and not allowed to go to school led me to donate 10 percent of my proceeds to this cause,” she says.
Cunningham was eventually featured on the “Today Show,” catapulting sales.
“By 2016, we grossed $100,000 in sales, and for 2018, we’re anticipating $1 million,” says Cunningham.
Today, both of her parents work for her business full-time — Dad is the CFO and “Mom does marketing and operations,” says Cunningham, who remains CEO.
She’s currently a freshman at SUNY University at Buffalo, majoring in business.
“My goal is to transfer to an Ivy League school and get my MBA. I want to grow my business and learn skills I can to apply to my company,” she says.