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These Annandale students started their own businesses. Here’s what they’ve learned.

By Michelle Collins

Youthcast Media Group®

For Ripley Hotaling and Haja Janjua, it was a passion for jewelry design. For Jason Perloff, it was pure competition and a desire to make money.

Ripley Hotaling poses with her handmade jewelry (Photo courtesy of Ripley Hotaling).

Whatever the reason for tackling the challenges of starting a business as a teenager, experts say today it’s easier than ever to do. In addition, starting a new business helps teach financial literacy, independence, and the value of money. Research shows that about two thirds of Gen Z have either begun the process of starting a business or have expressed interest in doing so. After Covid-19 hit in 2020 the small business industry skyrocketed. The newer generation has developed thousands of online platforms like eBay, Etsy, Piv, Squarespace, Shopify, and more.

“This generation has completely different options,” said Kathy Kristof, founder and CEO of “There's just hundreds, actually thousands of different side hustle platforms that are already established. So, it's easier to be an entrepreneur.”

Even though starting a business is so much easier today, it's not as simple as it sounds, Kristof said.

She noted some of the pros and cons:

  • Although you have more control over what you do and when, there is never a break;

  • When you sign a contract with a business and identify yourself as an employee, you are guaranteed to get payment if you abide by the terms of the agreement;

  • However, when you work alone, there is no paid time off or insurance of any type, which are typically provided to employees.;

  • Also, if you don't have anyone to help you, you'll need to buy all of your supplies and complete everything on your own.

All three of the Annandale High School entrepreneurs experienced struggles in getting started, and keeping their businesses going.

Haja and Ripley both put a lot of time and effort into their jewelry businesses.

Haja Janjua runs her own jewelry business and had to start from ground-zero (Photo courtesy of Haja Janjua).

“Some of the cons are slow days, when you don't get anything sold it can be really stressful. Having to restock a lot is also really time consuming,” said Haja. She was inspired to start developing her own website so she could sell her creations after watching a live video on TikTok of someone making jewelry. This brought back memories of her making bracelets when she was nine years old, giving her more inspiration.

At the age of 15 after receiving numerous compliments on her jewelry, Ripley launched her online store. As she started her process she turned to her father as her mentor and source of inspiration. She became inspired to start her own jewelry-making business after witnessing him working for himself and setting his own schedule.

It’s been a ton of work, she said.

“I have made each and every item by hand and photographed everything,” said Ripley. “I designed my entire website.”

All three entrepreneurs agree that the experience has been useful despite none of them having generated large gains.

Jason spent roughly four months working on his Funko Pop business, in which he made a little more than $900 reselling the pieces online. Even though he would have continued his business, he had to stop due to the age restriction on the sales platform he used. “It was fun as much as hard. You love seeing someone buy from you but when something doesn't sell it's extremely annoying.”

Ripley has earned enough money to pay for all materials, the cost of the website for the following year, and to start saving. Additionally, Haja has earned enough to open her savings accounts.

A set of pink and red heart-themed bracelets handmade by Haja (Photo courtesy of Haja Janjua).

"You have to maintain a positive attitude and remember that hard work is required to achieve your goals,” said Haja. “There will be good and bad days, but patience will get you through.”

Michelle Hopkins is a 10th grade student at Annandale High School in Annandale, Va. She wrote this story in collaboration with Youthcast Media Group’s team of mentoring journalists.


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