9 Year-Old Gabrielle Goodwin, CEO of GaBBy Bows, Advises Kids to Follow Their Dreams to Success

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Gabby's BowsYoung Gabrielle Goodwin has joined the growing roster of today’s “kidpreneurs.” At just 9 years old, she is the CEO of her own hair accessory company, GaBBy Bows, which was launched when she was 7 years old. And it’s not about her name being on a pack of hair barrettes while her parents do all the work. Gabrielle is actively involved with practically all aspects of the business. According to her mother, Rozalynn Goodwin, Gabrielle writes thank you notes for all online orders, is the lead person at trade shows doing demonstrations, and works on product design, online marketing, shipping and more.

With the tag line, “GaBBy Bows is the accessory solution for pigtails, braids and twists to save you time, money and frustration,” the company has been going full steam ahead since its 2014 debut. 

Here, we caught up with Rozalynn and Gabrielle to talk about the company.

TNJ.com: Rozalynn, how did GaBBy Bows come to be? 

Rozalynn Goodwin: Each morning, I would send Gabrielle to school, and she would often come back missing some hair barrettes. I found myself making several trips per month to our local beauty supply store to buy more and I just got frustrated and got on social media to vent about this scenario.  A number of mothers responded to my tweet. We were going back and forth lamenting about putting rubber bands around the barrettes to keep them from falling out and some even said maybe stop using them altogether. Apparently, my pastor saw the exchange and told me that it sounded like a market I should break into.

A couple of days later, I was styling Gabrielle’s hair before school and I was frustrated because I knew when I picked her up, some of her barrettes would be missing. When I mumbled under my breath,  “somebody needs to make a bow that works,” she jumped out of her seat and asked if we were going to make a bow. And she kept asking about it every day for days after that. I thought it would just be a science project, but I was still left with a 5-year old asking for her own bows. Two years later, we launched GaBBy Bows. 

TNJ.com: Gabrielle, what do you most enjoy about being the CEO of your own company?

Gabrielle Goodwin: I get to travel a lot, meet new people and inspire people.  
   
TNJ.com: Rozalynn, how did you fund the operation, and how was it launched?

       
R.G.: It was mostly self-funded. Her Dad and I took money out of our retirement accounts. We also did a Kickstarter campaign. We launched in February of 2014. I was trying hard to sell it to a company. We sent drawings out and an attorney encouraged me to publically disclose my idea, put up a website and sell them online. I figured I would sell to family and friends alone. We went back to the company that said no, and orders started coming in from 48 states and 8 countries. And we have not looked back since.
   
We created a 1-minute commercial and that received 1,000 hits on social media really quickly. Word about the barrettes started spreading. At the time, we had just 3 colors, but we have grown a lot since then. All of the shipping is done from our dining room to keep costs down; we have boxes of merchandise piled up high to the ceiling! Gabrielle came up with the colors and the design. We also do our own homemade polls on social media platforms to get feedback from customers and to see what people want, based on different trends and colors, to coordinate with clothing.

TNJ.com: Gabrielle, what advice do you give girls when you meet them at trade shows and other events?

G.G.: I give girls business advice such as: keep going, follow your dreams and you will become a success.

TNJ.com: Rozalynn, where is the merchandise manufactured, where can customers make purchases, and what is the cost for a pack of barrettes?

R.G.: It’s manufactured in China. We are trying to bring manufacturing back to the states but in the beginning it was cost-effective to have them made in China.

You can find the barrettes on our website; in my hometown of McCormick County, South Carolina; in local retail stores in Columbia, South Carolina where we currently reside; online stores in South Africa and Canada and Once Upon a Child stores in Charlotte and Matthews, North Carolina carry GaBBY Bows along with Annie’s Beauty Supply in St Petersburg, Florida.

Online, the barrettes are $3.99 a pack and there are 5 barrettes in each pack. We do a lot of trade shows too where we sell them for $5 a pack or 3 packs for $10.

TNJ.com: Gabrielle, do your friends at school wear your barrettes and which barrette is your favorite color? 

G.G.: My favorite color is the hot pink one. And yes, my school friends like my barrettes. One of my friends says she is my model and she wears them in her hair and shows them to people.

TNJ.com: Rozalynn, I heard you worked with SCORE. Tell me about that. 

R.G.: Yes, we have a SCORE mentor. It’s been great advice. The services they provide are free. It’s mostly retired experts in whatever field. We sit down once a quarter with our score mentor. Our business plan was even based on a SCORE template we got for free on SCORE .org. It was used to help us advance to the national finals U.S. Small Business Administration’s Innovate Her competition. Our financial projections and our templates and spreadsheets are also SCORE documents that we got online. We also had SCORE mentors review our numbers to make sure we were on track with the planning and projections for the business.      
 
TNJ.com: Gabrielle, will you continue your business when you get older?

G.G.: Yes. I want to continue the business when I grow up. And when I have a daughter, I want to do the business with her the way my Mom does with me.    

TNJ.com: Rozalynn, how is the business doing financially and what do you find most rewarding about embarking on this business with your daughter?

R.G.: We have broken even so we are now making money that we are investing money back into the company to expand colors and design so that we can keep customers happy. I tell people that for something that was started as a science project, in my mind, just to teach my daughter that nothing is impossible, has now been so rewarding.

It is rewarding to see her confidence and creativity develop and grow. We started this company when she was 7 and you could see her shyness and hesitancy. But now, if you look through our social media pages, her speeches are just amazing. At an event in Charlotte N.C. in front of 300 entrepreneurs, she spoke so confidently; it floors her dad and me. Now, she can do a speech with such clarity – and without notes! That is what’s most rewarding.

Also, it’s incredible to go to trade shows and speaking engagements where 5 and 6 year-old girls run to her, grab her and hug her. Once, we saw a 2 year-old baby point to Gabby after seeing a blown up poster board we had printed as if to say, “You look like me.” She is not only inspiring girls who look like her, but even women say, “Gosh, I should go back and pursue some of the things I set out to pursue, or at least make the first step.” She speaks to community groups, schools, events for entrepreneurship training for girls and children…and she talks about she has learned on her journey. I know any girl can overcome any fear they might have and become a CEO, just like Gabrielle.

(CLICK HERE for a related article about kidpreneurs.)