H. Rose Schneider Observer-Dispatch
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 15-year-old Tha Kyet launched her shoe-customization business, "TT Lace Me Up" after participating in the "Young Entrepreneurs Academy", a year-long program for middle and high schoolers to generate and pitch a business. The business really got underway when Tha's brother, 23-year-old Tamla Kyet, gave her a cricut machine for her birthday.
What started as a way to pass the time last summer has turned into a growing business venture for Utica teen Tha Kyet.
Tha, a 15-year-old rising junior at Thomas R. Proctor High School, went head to head with other teens on June 26 at the YEA! Saunders Scholars National Competition and introduce her shoe-customization business, TT Lace Me Up. She ended up making it to the final round of the competition.
It's the second year that the competition was held virtually, as students presented in front of a "Shark Tank"-style investor panel.
The competition was Tha's final step with YEA!, or Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a year-long program for middle and high schoolers to generate and pitch a business launched with the help of local investors and advisers.
While the program runs from October through May, TT Lace Me Up got its start last July, when Tha's brother, 23-year-old Tamla Kyet, gave her a cricut machine for her birthday. The machine cuts designs out of materials like leather, fabric and vinyl, and combined Tha's love of art and design and her brother's passion as a self-described "sneaker head," she said.
"I've always been interested in art as a young kid," Tha said. "It wasn't something I thought I'd start a business with, but it was a passion I had."
Tha started with basic designs but began offering customized ones as well. She said she'd like to move towards having her own signature designs and brand.
"So people know what I stand for," she said. "So that people go, 'That business has it, TT Lace Me Up has it.'"
Her designs are displayed on Instagram, which is where most of her business is conducted. Customers can message her over the app to discuss a possible design. While she does the design work on the shoes, her brother does the logistics of ordering and shipping, she said. So far, they've sold over 60 pairs.
"I learned that starting a business won't be easy" Tha said, but, she added, "I'm not alone, and there will be others who help me up if I do fall."
Tha is not sure yet what her career path will be after high school, but she hopes she'll be continuing to run TT Lace Me Up.
"Once you start something, you have to finish it," she said.
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