When I was a kid many lazy summer days ago, the idea of being my own boss extended only to running a lemonade stand in my front yard or washing cars. I had no visions of someday becoming a business titan.
Meg Shearer and Janae McKinney, on the other hand, are bigger dreamers and even bigger doers.
The two Kansas teenagers aren’t high school tech superstars, nor are they preparing business plans for selling stock and becoming multimillionaires in a couple of years. But they are talented young entrepreneurs in their own right, successful enough to be honored recently with scholarships from the National Federation of Independent Business.
Both have already experienced some of the ups and downs of running a business, and they have learned valuable lessons along the way — lessons that might motivate your young entrepreneurial wannabe this summer.
Here are their stories:
Meg Shearer found a way to turn an interest in photography into a thriving business.
It started when she took a photo class and worked on the yearbook staff during her sophomore year at Piper High School in Kansas City, Kan. To sharpen her talent with a camera, she started promoting free photo sessions on Facebook for families on weekends. Her backdrop was her parents’ apple orchard.
After 10 photo shoots in one day, Shearer said, “I realized I was pretty good at it.”
Soon more people starting asking for portraits. She started charging a fee, used profits to upgrade her camera equipment and launched Meg Shearer Photography.
Shearer also tweaked her marketing, offering photo sessions around holidays and other seasonal themes, birthdays and school yearbook senior pictures.
Of course, there were a few missteps along the way — for example, how to generate business during the winter and keep track of customer orders. That’s why she wants to major in business at Kansas State University, to learn more of the ins and outs that will help down the road when she launches a career in some line of photography.
Her advice to would-be young entrepreneurs: “You won’t have a good business if you don’t have good people skills.” That also means getting to know people who are in the line of work you’re interested in.
“It’s cliche,” the 18-year-old added, “but never give up. You will go through times you just want to cry, but you have to keep working at it.”
Janae McKinney needed a little nudge from her mother to jump into the business world three years ago.
It paid off with a $400 entrepreneurial grant from McPherson College in her hometown of McPherson, Kan.
The then-high school sophomore had a seed of a business idea — training dogs over the summer — and the grant money gave her the necessary funds and confidence to start promoting her service on local community radio and television.
McKinney had participated in dog training activities through 4-H since she was 12.
“I really liked dogs and really liked helping people work with them,” she said.
McKinney named her company Pawsitive Dog Training and started with group sessions before switching to individual lessons to focus more on obedience training.
Over the last three years, McKinney has learned about the challenges and risks of running a business. She didn’t realize, for example, how critical it was to come up with a catchy name for her company and how much effort went into promoting it. But the 18-year-old also got a taste of the satisfaction that comes with being your own boss and making good decisions.
One lesson she shared: “Be confident in whatever you decide to go into. If you’re confident, people will believe in you.”
College comes next, at Kansas State. While McKinney will scale back Pawsitive Dog Training to focus on a possible career in graphic design, she holds a secret dream.
“I would love to start a doggy day care business,” she said.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879