Young Entrepreneur Stringing Together Success

By Kathy Hanks The Hutchinson News, Kan.

Threading beads spun Julia Hardenburger into motion.

Like lots of 7-year-olds she began making simple, plastic, bead bracelets. But, she never stopped creating. And by the time she was 10 she had negotiated a business loan through her mother, Becca Hardenburger, so that she could build inventory to sell her bead work and baked goods a the local farmer's market.

Two years later Julia had paid back the loan.

Three more years have passed and today the exuberant 15-year-old is a full blown entrepreneur. Her business is "Little Owl Designs" and she sells the original natural and precious stone jewelry on both Facebook and on the street.

She can be seen wheeling her homemade vending cart at events like Third Thursday and Junkstock, a huge flea market held several times a year at an old dairy farm in West Omaha, Neb.

But, that's not all. This Hutchinson High School sophomore sells her original bookmarks at Bluebird Books. And her original designed jewelry can be found at Ostaras. She hasn't studied economics yet, but she has learned first hand the law of supply and demand.

Evolving with her creativity over the years, she appreciates natural and semi-precious stones such as lapis, tiger eye, and focuses on necklaces and bracelets.

Julia said she strives to keep expanding as she develops collections of her work. On a trip to France she discovered old religious medallions in a variety of shapes at a flea market in Nice. She decided to re-purpose them by stringing them together with beads. They are currently in popular demand.

For Julia, the best part of her business is the stories behind the medals and stones. Plus, the friends she is meeting through her business on Facebook.

"The Internet can be abused, but for me it is a gift," Julia said. "Facebook has been a blessing."

Interestingly, her audience is not her peers. She said her jewelry appeals to a more mature age group. Some of her best customers are in Nebraska and the United Kingdom. Because of her effervescent personality her customers easily become her friends.

Meanwhile, Julia says she wouldn't be where she is today without the support of her parents.

But, it's her parents who marvel at her ambition.

"She continually surprises me and works really hard," Becca Hardenburger said. "She doesn't have much down time."

Paul Hardenburger admits they are blessed by their daughter and appreciate her resiliency.

"She is learning that if something isn't working you change to make it work," Paul Hardenburger said. He is pleased that "She sees problems as just opportunities."

While he appreciates his daughter's creativity and passion, he's glad she is learning the business side of selling what she creates, pricing her products and marketing them.

She's willing to do what is necessary to move ahead with her dreams. Because she wants to became a fashion designer some day, she is learning to sew her own garments.

She attended a fashion week camp in Omaha this summer where she worked on mood boards and met with representatives with a New York modeling agency. All helped to stoke the fire of her dream.

"Life is an adventure," Julia said. An adventure she is already living.

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