By Jim Sullivan The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.
While most high school business students are content to put out a hypothetical shingle, Amesbury High School junior Kaylee Ireland has been running the real thing for almost a year.
"I don't think I am ever going to be a full-time businesswoman," Ireland said. "But I like having this on the side."
The 16-year-old owns and operates the retail accessory company Hirish out of her home, where she sells her custom-made knitted scarves and hats as well as her latest creations -- recycled bracelets made out of soda can tabs.
"I have always enjoyed doing craft things when I wasn't reading or writing or doing nerd stuff," Ireland said. "So I just picked it up."
Ireland began knitting for fun in the fourth grade, but she didn't think of going into business for herself until she took Entrepreneurship Using Technology-A with Cynthia Yetman at AHS when she was a sophomore.
"Not very many people take (that class) because not that many people know about it," Ireland said. "I took it by accident because I was in a class I didn't want to be in, but I figured 'Why not?' I had been looking at selling some of the things I had been making and it just took off from there.'
Ireland said she always enjoyed selling things at yard sales, but with the knowledge and energy she gained from the entrepreneur class, she decided to give Hirish a shot, even going as far as to enlist the help of actress Fiona Gubelmann, who recently was photographed wearing one of Ireland's hat.
"I have always had the mindset that, if I work hard enough at it and made my products the best that they could be, there must be some sort of demand," Ireland said. "With my products, especially with the hats, those are necessities especially during the winter when it is cold in New England. There is always a demand."
Impressed by her student's extracurricular activities, Yetman asked Ireland to take part in the first-ever Student Entrepreneurs who strive to Excel and are Driven (S.E.E.D ) Sharktank competition in June.
Co-sponsored by Truven Health Analytics director of business development and AHS alumna ('78) Melody Marden and the Amesbury Rotary Club and functioning just like the ABC-TV reality competition, the Sharktank pitted AHS business students against each other in presenting their business plans, financial forecasts and mid- to long-range business goals to a panel of celebrity judges that included Yetman, Amesbury Chamber of Commerce executive director Melissa Cerasuolo and Rotary president Todd Schell.
Ireland took first place in the Sharktank, winning $1,000 to put toward Hirish; she has been working closely with Marden as a mentor ever since.
"(Marden) has been fantastic," Ireland said. "She is amazing. Before the competition, I was taking it as a class and was doing my own thing, hoping some people would be interested. I sold a few, but it was never a big thing. But now that I won the competition, I can spread my product and that is what I am doing."
Yetman recently asked Ireland to speak to her Entrepreneurship-A class in the fall when she will be taking Entrepreneurship-B.
At the moment, Ireland's Tab Bracelets are on sale at Funny Girl Designs in Salisbury and she and Marden have been approaching local boutiques, selling her wares. According to Marden, Amesbury's newest retail sensation Nest has shown an interest.
"Kayle is an exceptional young woman," Marden said. "She has exhibited qualities far beyond her years in both business acumen, presentation skills, responsibility and overall commitment to make a difference. She is detail-oriented and has excellent follow-up skills. She is very personable, just a real go-getter and a cut above."