Grace is a 17-year-old senior at Pine View School who is always searching for new experiences. Her list of hobbies ranges from studying computers and building games to composing music and swimming. When Grace was introduced to The Club's Perlman Price Young Entrepreneurs Program (PYE), it was an easy decision for her to give entrepreneurship and business development a closer look.
In PYE, high school students like Grace can learn how to be their own bosses. PYE is offered three times each year and features 15 sessions of internationally-recognized curriculum with practical business advice and guidance from renowned entrepreneurs. Throughout the program, teens identify business opportunities, develop a written and visual business plan and compete for seed funding to launch their business.
"My favorite lesson was the overarching idea that before you go into anything major, like starting a business, it is really important to outline a plan," Grace says. "PYE taught me that research is critical to make sure that your business is viable... one that fills market needs or is something that, with very convincing evidence, will fill market needs in the future."
One to three participants from each PYE class are chosen to receive full or partial funding from local investors to bring their entrepreneurial vision to life. Grace was one of the winners who received seed funding to launch her business venture, Pockets4People.
"I've always liked how pocket t-shirts looked and the functionality behind wearing one," Grace says. "Most pockets are plain or the same color as the shirt. I thought it would be really cool to have the pocket be the centerpiece. So I went with it and started thinking about designs."
Grace used her seed funding to invest in equipment like a sewing machine and a heat press. She also purchased supplies like transfer paper and fabric.
"The seed funding helped me experiment with my purchases," Grace says. "I was able to test different suppliers to find the shirts I liked best. Once I found the best fit, I could buy in bulk and ultimately save money on shipping expenses."
Grace was also interested in using her award to test advertising channels and build an online shop.
Through PYE, Grace was matched with her mentor Jim Martin, Founder & CEO of Sarasota-based Captivation Agency and long-time supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs, to help her take these next steps in her entrepreneurial journey.
"Mr. Jim said that he really liked go-getters and people who are ready to take initiative," Grace says. "It was a great match."
Over the course of her mentorship with Jim, Grace was able to focus on building the foundation of her business from establishing a brand to defining her audience.
"Mr. Jim helped me figure out what direction to go in and how I can more effectively advertise my business," Grace says. "He helped me find my niche."
While Grace was teaching herself how to sew and scaling her designs, she also met with Jim for direction on designing and promoting a website.
"He helped me plan how to start a website," she says. "I also learned that hosting a website costs a lot of money, but there are other ways to get your business out there using ecommerce websites and social media. Mr. Jim helped me become more savvy."
As a busy senior in high school with a full plate of AP classes and many other extracurricular activities, Grace decided to hit pause on her plans to build a website and started selling on Etsy and DePop. While the reviews from shoppers are raving, Grace is looking forward to her next chapter as she will start embarking on her collegiate journey in the fall.
"Mr. Jim's guidance helped me with this decision, and I'm really proud of where I was able to grow the business," says Grace.
One of Grace's biggest highlights after launching her business was how she was able to adjust her business plan at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to help keep her community safe.
After researching articles and watching video tutorials, Grace used her supplies and sewing skills to make hundreds of masks for local organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties and the local Salvation Army.
"I was thinking how I could make this more applicable to everyone. Not everyone knows how to make a mask or has a sewing machine, and the vast majority of people don’t know how to sew," Grace says. "I figured out that t-shirt masks are a great alternative."
At that time, Grace was also the president of The Club's Keystone Club, a premiere character and leadership program that unites thousands of teens across the globe through community service, academic success, career preparation and more. Together, our local chapter decided to organize a mask project with Grace playing a lead role in the process.
"I hosted a livestream on my business' Instagram and taught my viewers how to make a mask. By the end of that livestream, a lot of the people watching it were able to make the t-shirt mask," says Grace. "I also paired up with Key Club at Pine View and taught them how to make t-shirt masks. I’m very proud of that project."
With opportunities to test new skills and seek support from local professionals like Jim, Club members just like Grace can discover how an idea can grow into a fully-operative business that impacts a community.
"My PYE and mentorship experience is definitely going to help a lot in the future if I want to start another business," says Grace. "I have this great experience under my belt now."
Do you have a great idea for a business? Want to see it come to life? Join PYE to learn from experts and gain seed money!