By Samantha Swindler The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
A summer spent creating a cosmetics company gave two Glencoe High School students a taste of real world experience and real world success.
Ruth Teklu and Becca McInally, both 17, founded Glow Cosmetics as part of a new youth entrepreneur program, developed in partnership with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, Hillsboro Tuesday Night Market, and Hillsboro School District.
The teens created their own line of skin scrubs and bath fizzies, learning in the process about everything from product research and testing, to packaging and marketing.
For Teklu, who hopes to study business in college, the summer project affirmed her post-high school plans. For McInally, who's still deciding her career path, her Glow experience taught her that she has a flair for marketing.
That's what the program's all about, said Brooke Nova, coordinator of college and career pathways for Hillsboro School District. For the 13 students who participated, the inaugural Teen Market provided a hands-on learning experience "to be able to experiment with a safety net, to build that confidence and self awareness," Nova said. "That's being career and college ready."
Creating a company If Glow were a corporation, the girls say Teklu would be the chief financial officer, and McInally the head of marketing and communications.
Teklu had the idea to create a beauty-based business, having experience making her own facial masks and scrubs. McInally also liked making face masks, though the pair quickly learned that ingredients they normally use, such as bananas and avocados, wouldn't hold up in packaging.
"Nobody wants to pay money for a brown pile of mush," Teklu said.
They spent hours in the kitchen using blenders and coffee grinders to create different scrub mixes. After some experimenting, they came up with their best-selling product, a clay and charcoal-based facial scrub called Diamond in the Rough.
"Even my dad uses this one," McInally said, adding "He's a really supportive dad."
For most of the teens in the program, Nova said, developing the product was the easy part, but creating a business plan and setting a price point "was a real learning curve."
Chamber members and Tuesday Market organizers held a series of meetings with the students at the beginning of the summer. They offered advice on product displays, price setting and marketing.
"They (the Chamber) invested a lot of time in us and it made us feel valued," McInally said. "They took us seriously. They treated us like we were professionals."
The girls had each put in $250 as seed money to found Glow.
"It makes you work harder, for sure," Teklu said about that initial investment. "You really have to be passionate and really believe in what you're doing."
They learned early on about the power of promotion. Even before their first market, Glow was on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, building buzz and brand awareness.
"Presentation is everything and we both know that. Packaging is everything, marketing is everything," Teklu said.
Over the five weeks they sold their product at the market, they realized how a good display can attract more business. And when they added a sign that read "help fund our college," they got another boost in sales. While Teklu was the pro at watching inventory and finances, McInally excelled at reaching out to customers and talking about their brand.
After Glow Teklu and McInally's goal was to make a profit of $500 each. By the end, they'd both made more than $600. They sold practically all their product and ended their market run a week earlier than planned.
But they haven't entirely given up on Glow Cosmetics. They are considering selling at holiday bazaars, Orenco Fest and online -- they just don't want to get overwhelmed as they enter their senior year at Glencoe. McInally is on the swim team; Teklu runs cross country and track. Both care about their studies and are involved in numerous extra-curricular activities and clubs.
After graduation, McInally is considering a gap year, which she wants to spend with the Urban Missions Institute in Seattle. She thinks she'd like to work with nonprofits and promoting social justice. And yet, "I could see myself doing business," she said. "This has been really eye opening."
And that's something Nova was particularly excited to see.
"I think this connected her to something that she didn't know she was interested in doing," Nova said. "Students only really truly know their strengths and skills if they have the opportunity to use them in a practical way.
"And that's huge when you're deciding what you want to do in life."