Who says someone under the age of 21 can’t run a business? Teenpreneur Bridgeja’ Baker is living proof that you can be young and driven and focused and passionate…all at the same time.
Baker, a native of New Orleans, is a high student who also runs her own jewelry company called Creative Jewelry by Bridgeja’. Her product, Bend-A-Bangles, a line of bracelets, is now available on the QVC website.
Here, TNJ.com talks to Baker about her company, her goals and her best advice to other young entrepreneurs:
TNJ.com: Tell me a little bit about the online contest. How did you hear about it and what did you have to do to enter the contest?
Bridgeja’ Baker: The QVC Sprouts program is an ongoing effort that focuses on new product discoveries, big and small, that leave you wondering, “How did I ever live without this?” The program allows customers to vote on new products to be added to QVC’s products. The contest was very competitive. Bend-A-Bangles was selected because it was among the products that received the most votes during the specified two-week voting cycle. I worked with a broker who assisted me with getting my information together for submission for the QVC Sprouts program to pitch to the decision makers at QVC.com to build awareness about Bend-A-Bangles. For the contest, I reached out to people via Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and other digital platforms. Right now, my product is on the QVC website. We are hopeful that customer interest and sales will be strong during this phase, opening up the opportunity for me to have an on-air selling opportunity on QVC. And that’s very exciting.
TNJ.com: What, if any, challenges have you faced in running your own jewelry company?
B.B.: The main challenge for me in the beginning was getting others to realize that my jewelry designing was not just a hobby or a pastime. Granted, I started this business with the assistance of my parents when I was 10 years old. People just could not seem to wrap their brains around a 10-year old kid being passionate about designing jewelry and growing that passion into a collection of creative, custom and beautifully hand-crafted jewelry for men and women, and girls and boys.
TNJ.com: What are your long-term goals for the company?
B.B.: My desire is to build a strong and viable brand where most people, especially women would have a piece of jewelry from Creative Jewelry by Bridgeja’ in their personal collection. My overall goal for my company is to expand the venues where my jewelry creations can be purchased, such as home shopping networks in addition to QVC and also have my creations available in major department stores such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. I would also like to support African-American fashion designers, working with them to design creative jewelry and accessories to complement their fashions.
TNJ.com: What are your career aspirations after you finish school? Do you plan on a career in fashion & jewelry merchandising, etc.?
B.B.: My future plans are to continue to grow the Creative Jewelry by Bridgeja’ brand. I also aspire to obtain my pharmacy degree, become a pharmacist and open my own drug store.
TNJ.com: What advice do you have for people your age interested in starting their own businesses?
B.B.: My first piece of advice to my peers is to remember this: “no pain, no gain.” Developing and sustaining a business is HARD WORK. When you work for yourself, you must be willing to sacrifice and stay focused to achieve your goals. Also, having your own business allows you to be able to control your destiny financially, personally and professionally, which is very important and empowering.
Second, never let anyone tell you what you cannot do. Keep your eye on the prize and make it happen. Your hard work will pay off with successes.
Third, reinvest in your business, have a budget and pay your bills on time. The seed money I borrowed from my parents to start my company, I have paid back. Having good credit is important and having partners working with you who you can trust is important as well.
Last, always remember to reach back and give back to help others. I donate a portion of my earnings to causes that benefit children, animals and the homeless. I’m also looking into sponsoring a beading camp for girls.