Successful teen entrepreneurs

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Three local teens have been successfully managing their own businesses this summer, thanks to a program run by the Leeds Grenville Small Enterprise Centre. The Summer Company Program supports young entrepreneurs aged 15-29 who want to try their hand at working for themselves during the summer months.

Wendy Onstein, Lead Consultant, Leeds Grenville Small Business Centre, explained how the funding works: “The participants received an award of up to $1,500 in early summer to help with business start-up costs, and an additional $1,500 award in the fall upon the successful completion of their Summer Company business and proof of returning to school; as well as an opportunity to meet every two weeks with a local business mentoring group for support and advice on operating their summer business.”

Sixteen-year-old Katie Gilpin heard about the program when representatives from the Leeds Grenville Small Enterprise Centre did a presentation about it at her school. She had recently learned how to crochet custom fly bonnets for horses, to protect their ears from flies and other insects. She was having so much fun making them she thought it would be a great idea to turn it into a business.

Katie Gilpin with one of her fly bonnets

Katie says the application process for the program was quite intense. She had to write a business plan and go through an interview process in order to get accepted. The program officially started in May, with the bi-weekly meetings where participants could discuss their successes and what they were struggling with in their business. “I have found that to be very helpful,” she says.

With the help of Summer Company, Katie has seen an increase in her business. She says she had a steady flow of one order per week over the summer, but has recently received an order for ten bonnets to outfit the Meadowlands Jumper Team near Brockville. Katie says the best part about running the business is seeing her customers happy. She can make bonnets in any colour and fits them to every size of horse from miniature pony to Clydesdale.

Katie’s older brother, Mark Gilpin, is also a participant in the program. He restores old photos using digital software – bringing old memories back to life. He says he applied for the Summer Company program because he wanted to get some business experience. His business is also going well, having restored over 30 photos this summer.

Joshua Gilbey, who happens to be the Gilpins’ neighbour, is the last of the North Grenville crew in this year’s Summer Company program. He is a photographer who captures little moments in life that you might not normally notice, like the flow of a river, or the flight of a hummingbird. Josh sold greeting cards featuring his nature photography at various retail outlets, fairs and privately.

According to Katie, this year’s Summer Company participants have become a tight knit group. She says her favourite part about participating in the program is the connections she’s made with other young entrepreneurs. “I will probably end up staying friends with the people I’ve met over the summer,” she says. “I learned how to create a successful business plan, but also made lasting connections.”

All three will be returning to classes next month at North Grenville District High School.

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