By Claire Coder
Distinguished Young Woman of Ohio for 2015
I started my first business at age seven. Just like many other kiddos, I knew I was going to make millions selling lemonade. Toledo, Ohio, the mecca of unpredictable weather and little foot traffic, did not appear to be the ideal location for a profitable lemonade stand. But I was determined.
It was a pleasant, summer day when childish-me noticed construction workers down the street renovating a house. I recognized these people as potential customers and I began urgently organizing my supplies. I began thinking about the construction workers and was reminded of my balding, surveyor Dad. My seven-year-old thought process: “Dad enjoys beer, so clearly these construction workers would too.” Subsequently, I grabbed five cans of my father’s beer collection, threw them on some ice, and bolted to the curb to set up shop. Before I knew it, the men came prodding over. They happily purchased my Dad’s beer at $5.00 a can. In just 5 minutes, I sold five cans and made my first $25.00.
Although this whole scenario is illegal and slightly alarming (considering it is Toledo, Ohio), I continued to utilize the lessons that I learned from my seven-year-old self to grow as an entrepreneur:
1. Recognize that You Need Customers: If there are no people around, even a cute girl with a lemonade cooler isn’t going to draw customers. You must have people.
2. Location, Location, Location: Be seen. If the construction workers could not see the stand, I would have no customers.
3. Understand Your Customer: Even at age seven and drawing from her personal experiences, I began to comprehend what a potential customer would buy.
4. Don’t Do Illegal Things: This is a note to the seven-year-old, beer-selling, self.
These lessons have carried over into my personal life and professional persona. At age 16, I received a badge maker from my Grandma Jane. I began to design circular images that I would press into buttons, magnets, and compact mirrors. I would hand out these 2.25” trinkets to friends and family, and they loved them. When I was nearing an empty stock, I realized that if I wanted to continue making pieces, I would need to generate revenue to purchase more products. The entrepreneurial spirit within me decided to take my best designs, throw them into a basket, and approach different local shops. My first day in the business world was utterly unsuccessful. I cold-called countless stores, all of which said no. My Dad offered valuable advice, “perseverance pays off.”
Looking back at the lessons I learned when I was seven, I reevaluated my methods of approaching stores.
1. Recognize that You Need Customers: I wanted to continue doing what I loved, therefore, I needed customers.
2. Location, Location, Location: Small, locally owned boutiques were the way to go.
3. Understand Your Customer: I realized that the majority of the people that were shopping at these boutiques were women aged 20-55. I prepared designs that would appeal to that demographic.
4. Don’t Do Illegal Things: With the help of my Dad, I chose a name for my company, There’s a Badge for That, registered the business, purchased business cards, and built a website.
Between school, after school activities, and homework, all of these steps took nearly 2 months until I was ready to re-approach boutiques. It was well worth the wait; the first store that said “yes” to purchasing 25 magnets, was Schramm’s Flowers and Gifts. I continued to cold-call and sell my pieces. In just two years and hours of work, There’s a Badge for That was selling in stores all over Ohio and internationally online. I created a team of five independent distributors and performed all of my business marketing in house. Often, I felt overwhelmed. I would wake up, check my emails, rush to mail orders, hurry to school, anxiously wait until the final bell would ring, swing over to dance (or softball, or mock trial, or student government, or philosophy club), and then (finally) hustle on the business. My days were long and exhausting, but I continued because my business was based on passion.
Once I graduated high school, I moved to Columbus and away from selling buttons. My passion for entrepreneurship and making an impact was still vibrant. I decided it was time to put my four rules of starting a business to the test for a third time.
Now nineteen, I am preparing to launch the social enterprise, Aunt Flow. This business idea formulated when I realized nearly 18 million women in the United States lived in poverty last year, and many of these women didn’t have access to basic feminine hygiene products. What was even more frustrating was the fact that these products aren’t covered by food stamps, the WIC’s program, and in most states, they are taxed. As a woman, I understand the burden of not having needed supplies. Dealing with the monthly visit is hard enough with cramps, but not having something to hold the flow, is humiliating and messy. That is why I created Aunt Flow.
Aunt Flow is a buy one, give one subscription based model for feminine hygiene products. Women can go online, customize her box, and have it delivered to her door. For every box she receives, a box goes to a woman in need. Women can choose which organization her “give one” box will support. Aunt Flow has not yet launched sales, but is gearing up for a crowd funding launch party on May 12, 2016. The social enterprise will strive to raise $25,000 to purchase the initial order of branded products and supplies to support over 9,000 women. Aunt Flow is looking to rapidly expand and is currently seeking organizations across the United States to provide feminine hygiene products. The business is currently working with Columbus YWCA, OSU Star House, and Tiger Pantry in Missouri.
I am also passionate about lessening the taboo-ness of talking about the menstrual cycle. To encourage both men and women to talk about tampons, I created videos that include Tampon Talks and Tips from Flow Bros. These videos highlight women sharing their most embarrassing period stories and realistic sagas of their first visit from Aunt Flow. Flow Bro videos encourage men to talk freely and openly about the menstrual cycle. I encourage both men and women to not be self conscious about being socially conscious.
Regardless of the product, whether it lemonade, badges, or tampons, I continue to strive and grow as an entrepreneur and offer my “spark” of passion in all that I do.
Claire Coder is a college freshman at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Claire was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Ohio for 2015. Learn more about Claire here!
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