Inspiring story of 17 year old teenpreneur Lizzy Lewellyn
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We are super excited about young entrepreneurs who are improving the lives of other teens, applying solutions to real-world problems, producing thriving businesses, and pivoting the world to the future.
If you know of any teenager who has launched a business as a teenager and is below 25, we would be happy to cover his/her story. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, sending some basic info, and we will respond within 48 hours.Lizzy Lewellyn, Founder
The Shepherd’s Shack LLC
By Khushi Dave and Mary Olson
KOKOMO, INDIANA, U.S.A. May 22, 2020. It’s no secret that Lizzy’s life has been challenging since day one. Lizzy has a condition called Arthrogryposis and a mild case of scoliosis. Her spine almost looks like an ‘S,’ on an X-Ray, you can tell that her appearance has a unique figure. Lizzy used to be embarrassed and ashamed about it, but now it’s one of the many things that make her proud of who she is. Occasionally she wishes that she was a “normal” kid, but then she realizes that she doesn’t like normal. It’s boring. She realized that she is unique, not just her body but also her personality.
There’s so much more that makes Lizzy, “Lizzy,” the way she thinks, how she feels about others, the way she talks, and its beautiful. People often use the term “disability” with her, but she hates that term. She prefers unique or medical/physical limitations because it’s less of a label. Being called disabled puts people in this box of limited potential, and just because someone cannot physically function at 100% all the time does not mean they cannot thrive.
“Having medical conditions on top of everything definitely adds stress some days, but that’s not usually what gets me so down,” says Lizzy. She has been a survivor of extreme bullying, both online and verbally, in her previous high school. Being vulnerable to people isn’t easy for Lizzy, but it allows her to share her story. She knows that she could help someone else who can relate to what she has been through. Although she was not physically hurt, she still has scars from all the mental and emotional trauma that she succumbed to. She was there for less than two years of high school when she transferred the first semester of grade 8 to an online program at Insight School of Indiana.
2018 and well into 2019 was such a lonely time because Lizzy was lost trying to find her purpose and who she wanted to be or what she wanted to do. While she tried to figure all of that out, she was still healing from the mental and emotional trauma she endured in her previous years. “I was in such a dark place; I didn’t think I was going to get through it. I considered giving up on everything, even life, but Insight saved my life”.
Insight School of Indiana gave her opportunities to grow and find herself and think about her future, and they reminded her that she could have a future. She didn’t have any friends – at least not any that are her age to confide in- let alone trust.
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She couldn’t get a job, regardless of the countless applications and interviews. She pretty much lost all hope and strength in herself. Her first business idea sprouted when Liz Miller took her to dinner for her birthday at Olive Garden in January 2019. She remembers that evening so well because it was one of the best nights she’d had in a long time. “Liz is the kind of person who always knows just what to say to guide me back to the light. She always brings positive energy and encouragement, no matter how dark the conversation gets. I always know I can trust her with whatever I’m thinking or feeling.”
As they were enjoying dinner, they discussed Lizzy’s struggle to find her first job. Lizzy casually mentioned that she wished that she could be her boss and wouldn’t need to worry about someone hiring her because she’d be in charge. Little did she know that the comment would start a much bigger conversation. It was the moment that Liz began to express her thoughts about Lizzy starting her own business. Liz suggested that she could make homemade dog treats and sell them at a local farmers market. It was an “ah-ha” moment because Lizzy loves dogs. Lizzy went along with the idea and decided to explore things for herself. When Lizzy went home and told her mom about the conversation with Liz. It evolved from a thought to an idea.
Over the next few days, Lizzy and her mother started researching and learning about all the different dog treat recipes online. Lizzy decided that everything must be 100% natural and mostly organic, if not all organic. After she started listing ingredients and debating how many kinds of treats, she wanted to begin with, and the idea just kept expanding.
“I had all the visions of all the different routes I could take this business and realized, this is MY business. I can do whatever I want, and I wanted more. I didn’t want to be a lemonade stand at a park, or in this case, it would’ve been dog treats. I wanted to be bigger. I wanted to create something that could grow and create endless opportunities not just for me but for many people and dogs all around the world!” says Lizzy.
Having dogs herself, she kept thinking about all the products she has used on them and things that she could change about the product or what could make the product better. So once again, she began to research. Lizzy has used essential oils personally because she is quite a fan of holistic medicine and homeopathic remedies vs. today’s medicine. The reason is that with anything these days, especially when things are man-made or created in labs, there’s always a possible side effect. She just wanted something that could bring relief without all the fear of side effects.
The same goes for animals as well. So, Lizzy decided that she wanted to incorporate essential oils into her dog products. There are only certain essential oils that are safe for dogs. So, throughout her research, she wrote down all kinds of pet-safe essential oils and their properties. She then began to categorize which ones were best for certain forms of remedies like fleas and ticks or itchy skin etc. all this research fascinated her. She then started researching other ingredients to add with the essential oils that would be necessary, depending on which type of product she was formulating at the time. The VERY FIRST product she ever made was her shampoo, “The BIG Stink.” The day she made her prototype and bottled it up, she smiled so big, and for the first time in years, she felt so alive and happy. She knew this was the start of something BIG.
None of the ingredients in her treats or products are positioned to "cure" dog's illnesses. They are safe and natural homeopathic or holistic therapy/remedies instead of the toxic chemical-based products that some brands sell.
Her business is all about dogs. She supplies dog products to customers. Her products are handmade and 100% natural, made with mostly organic ingredients and essential oils. She is also working hard to be as Eco-Friendly as possible to help protect her customers' furry friends and help protect the planet.
Her dog treats have healing properties along with ingredients like turmeric, where studies have shown it is known to help prevent diseases like cancer. Her products have ingredients like coconut oil and cedarwood (known to repel fleas and ticks). In contrast, the coconut oil moisturizes the fur leaving it shiny and healthier while stripping away the dirt and unwanted oils.
How did the name “The Shepherd’s Shack” become the title of her business? Now that’s simple, HER DOG! Haha, but seriously, her dog Astrid is a German Shepherd… get it? Now, the apostrophe expresses the ownership belongs to her. You can see that her business has pictures of Astrid all over the promotional posts and website because she is the mascot of the business. It’s HER Shack, meaning The Shepherd’s Shack. She debated at least 30 possible names, and when she said this one out loud and then wrote it down on paper, it clicked, and she knew.
From there on, she created her official logo in less than a day and began building my website with the website builder, Squarespace, and started producing product label prototypes. Lizzy never used any fancy design software, she used her iPad Pro and an app called “Sketchbook” by the creators: Autodesk. She used her Apple Pencil and drew all her labels by hand and then transferred them into a template in an online printing/marketing material company called Vistaprint, who officially printed her designs and shipped the labels that she created to her.
Lizzy is exceptionally passionate about the environment. “If you can’t break it down, we encourage everyone to recycle it so it can be reused in the future. You can see the recycle logo imbedded in all our bottles”. Since she is an artist, she created all the marketing and everything herself. Not only are the stickers paper-based, but one of the things she loves about her business is the unique and fun names she gave to her products. Her customers love the catchy and funny brand names.
Lizzy got the initial idea for The Shepherd’s Shack in January 2019. She then started preparing everything for the launch date in May 2019 and officially launched her business on August 2nd, 2019.
She spent months researching ingredients, brainstorming formulas, getting all the dog products and dog treat formulas finalized, and making the product. She also built her website and marketing on social media along with creating the labels for the products and any other design aspects that took place for the site, formulas, and building the unique names for the products and treats.
Initially, Lizzy was unsure about her attempt to start a business idea. “A lot of the “planning” didn’t begin until after it took off because I’m not the best at self-confidence, so I was surprised the day I launched it at my little booth on August 2nd, 2019”, says Lizzy. After that day, she started gathering up some necessary planning but had no idea where to start on the financial side of the preparation. She realized that there was so much to learn before launching her business. She had to backtrack and catch up with herself. She had been focused on the in-the-moment stuff and not on money or thinking about revenue projections.
“I’m only human, and I’m bound to make mistakes. As long as I learn from them, everything that happens in between is just noise.” That’s something motivational!
Lizzy’s primary goal is to continue to expand, hopefully, collaborate with other businesses and make a name for herself and her brand. “I want to see my products in stores worldwide. I want to be Nationwide, possibly Worldwide someday!” She plans to donate a portion of her sales from “Shacks Sacks” (eco-friendly muslin cotton logo bags), once she achieves a constant cash-flow, not just locally, but also from worldwide animal/wildlife organizations!
Giving back is vital to Lizzy, and she wants to create a platform for herself and be an influencer to people, especially younger generations, to help spread awareness about her most passionate topics. She wants to have a platform so she can use it not just to help animals but people as well, like raising awareness and showing support to the LGBTQ+ community. It is essential to her as she is proudly a part of that community.
She currently has no employees and is the CEO/Manager of her company. She almost does everything on her own. Although a little assistance from her amazing mother from time to time, who she considers a partner when it comes to producing more product for restocking and helping set up for her vendor events. If she gave her mom a title, she would say that her mom is her production assistant.
She has always been so used to everyone telling her what she can and can’t do. Since she was finally building something that she could call her own, she stubbornly rejected help at the beginning. She then realized that educating herself with the aid of people around her isn’t such a bad idea; she turned to her father because he has always been good at business and financing. Her mother has been supporting as well. Her mother helps her more with the creative/production side of the business, meaning she helps her brainstorm and physically produce ore product and setup for vendor events when her business travels. She has a business bank account for her business and has a logbook that helps keep her organized and on track with her sales and expenses.
The differentiating factor of her business is the extreme amount of research that goes into the production of each new product that they launch, not to mention the time they take to formulate, bottle and package every item that was handmade with love. Research is a crucial part of a business like hers because to be 100% natural; you must check the specifications of every ingredient that is considered during the product formulation process. They carefully research the essential oils as well as the properties of each essential oil because not all essential oils are safe. Lizzy is still working to make everything eco-friendly as it can be expensive, so she is starting by using almost all paper-based packaging instead of plastic-based. For example, the product logos are paper-based packaging along with her business cards and other shipping materials. The shopping bags are made from craft paper, and they are working on improving their packaging for online orders so we can soon ship in eco-friendly packaging as well. The bottles are made with HDPE plastic and other recyclable materials.
Lizzy recently started her first paid job at an ice-cream shop near her house. The owner of the ice cream shop is her father’s friend, and she was very grateful when he accepted her job application. He knew it had been a struggle to find a job, so it meant a lot. Of course, this is just a seasonal job during the summer, so she still has plenty of time to focus on her business.
Her biggest challenge so far was getting herself out there; living in a small town can make it challenging to expand, especially at such a young age. She noticed that once she started attending vendor events like farmers' markets or local markets/festivals since they are a big deal once a year, she caught people's interest and attention. She landed on the front page in the Kokomo Tribune Newspaper in February 2020. That was the most significant boost for her business from a marketing standpoint. It made her business social media blow up faster, especially on Facebook. She was also awarded "Mission Moment" by Insight School of Indiana School Board. Lizzy was given a student spotlight on her school's social media page as well. Being a self-made businesswoman at 17 isn't easy, but she enjoys it a lot!
She believes that the biggest mistake that she has made as an entrepreneur was making sure everything “looked” professional. She purchased too many cosmetic materials (meaning materials to display on the tables at her booth for the vendor event, where she launched the business). She was so worried about being taken seriously since she is so young. She kept thinking if everything looks super professional, she’ll sell more.
That’s was not entirely the case, especially with vendor events. The best way to persuade sales is by connecting with the customers on a level that’s not too personal but enough to express your character and give them a sense of who you are and what you and your business are about.
She started focusing more on communicating with her customers and talking about the products she’s selling and why their dogs need them. She had to stop and realize it doesn’t matter how fancy your booth looks if you have a terrible product, so if she genuinely had the right products, all she had to do is talk about the products and educate consumers. To her, the presentation was everything. The table presentation her table is still essential, but the real value of the product and it’s effectiveness is what people are going to remember the most - not the pink table clothes and the fancy display racks. It was a huge lesson for her as a businesswoman. “It surely won’t be my last mistake, I’m only human we all make mistakes. We have to remind ourselves that our mistakes do not define us. I sometimes am so terrified to fail that sometimes I forget to remind myself that.”, says Lizzy.
Her parents gave her a starting amount of around $350-400+. They told her to use it and see how and where she could take her business. She has since maintained her business finances and is currently breaking even. It’s an excellent start for my growth stage! For Lizzy, this business isn’t all about money, and she enjoys it even if she is not getting any income from it personally as long as the shop is getting a cash flow and not losing money, she is okay with it right now. She does not have entrepreneurial funds. She never used outside funding. However, she has a donation button on her website. People are always welcome to contribute any amount to put towards the production of her business. She plans to attend more vendor events/festivals outside of her town to scale up her business. Once she has more cash flow, she will be adding some ads to a marketing budget. She would also love to collaborate with some other companies.
“I built this business from scratch, and there’s no way I’m ever going to give up on what I love! I don’t care what anyone says, I know I can do this, and I’m going to keep at it. If obstacles get in my way, I’ll figure it out like I always do because this is worth fighting for!”, Lizzy’s words are very inspiring! She would love to be recognized by some public figures to get her name and business out in the world. Her long-time dream is to be on Jimmy Fallon’s show.
Lizzy’s tips for budding teenager entrepreneurs is to “never give up on what you are passionate about, don’t let anyone diminish or belittle your confidence in what you CAN do and achieve. When you are faced with a decision, and you don’t know which choice is the right one, always follow your heart. It’s ok not to be ok sometimes. My message box is always open on my social media to anyone who needs someone to talk to if someone is struggling. Never be afraid to ask for help and ask questions. Always take time for YOU because nothing else will function right if you can’t. Don’t ever let your weaknesses or failures define you because what they do is make you stronger, and one day, they will lead you to your strongest achievements!”
Lizzy would usually use the term inspirational rather than role model because she’s still her own person and doesn’t want to “be” like anyone else. She finds Michael Jackson inspirational. “His soul was so pure, and he always was giving back to people in need, ALWAYS! No matter how much he was going through in his life, he was always putting everyone else first. The amount of change he made for so many organizations and money he donated to help save and protect children and the way he cared about the planet as much as the people on it. I always have admired him,” says Lizzy.
Lizzy is genuinely dedicated to her work and seeing her thrive is an inspiration to many people. She motivates people to follow their dreams and do what they desire. She told us that anything is possible if you are willing to work for it.
Khushi Dave is a product associate at Teenager Startups. She is a first-year student studying Software Engineering at Ontario Tech University. Mary is Chief Editor of Media Group and Advisor Teenager Startups. She is pioneer of high-value branding, media, marketing, & tech driven businesses.
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