Entrepreneurs sell their way to success

Annie Goldstein and Ava Koblik

Posing with her Halloween themed cotton candy, Sigel displays her festive seasonal edition. Photo courtesy of Janea Greene.

Even after six hours of Zoom classes and schoolwork, the day does not end for student business owners. Whether it is spinning sugar into cotton candy treats or stringing beads into necklaces, students have found creative ways to launch new businesses and bring their interests to life.

Emily Sigel

Junior Emily Sigel, also known as “The Cotton Candy Girl,” started her cotton candy business during the fall of 2018. Before the pandemic, Sigel’s business catered cotton candy to a variety of events including bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, birthday parties and fashion shows.  The Cotton Candy Girl business began when Sigel, a past ballet dancer, twisted her ankle and tore three ligaments and tendons in seventh grade. Forced to put her passion on hold, she underwent five different surgeries that left her bedridden for four months. Though her dancing career ended, Sigel’s freed-up schedule allowed her to launch her business. 

From a young age, Sigel demonstrated her independence and motivation, both skills that have helped her in starting her business. Her father, Greg Sigel, recalls a time when Emily was younger and wanted to make money to buy herself a new laptop. 

“She took a cooler and bought a whole bunch of cokes and sprites. We then went down with her to popular tourist spots like Sausalito and she made a sign [that said] ‘Emily’s Ice Cold Cokes,’” Greg said.

In the earlier stages of her business, Sigel looked to her mother, Barbara Sigel, for guidance as she is an entrepreneur herself who started Corporate Impressions, a custom branding agency. Sigel’s mother was ready to step in and teach Emily the inner workings of being an entrepreneur whether it was advertising or pricing her cotton candy. Although Barbara gave her initial advice on the marketing side of Sigel’s business, she credits all of her daughter’s success to personal ambition.

Biting into pink vanilla flavored cotton candy, a young girl enjoys Sigel’s treats at a pre-pandemic event. Photo courtesy of Emily Sigel.

“I just admire her as a person more than I ever thought I could,” Barbara said. 

While Sigel’s event-based business was impacted by COVID-19, that did not stop her from getting creative. She started making “cotton candy grams,” pre-packaged cotton candy that people could order and send to their friends and family. Sigel has also used online platforms and social media to promote her business and grow her customer base. With background experience from a graphic design class she took at Redwood, Sigel creates content for her website and designs banners for advertising throughout the community. 

“Once I learned how to design websites and decided to buy [a cotton candy machine], it kind of took off …. It was crazy and hard, but it was also a lot of fun,” Sigel said. 

In addition to starting her own business, Sigel has also started the Teenage Entrepreneur Society that focuses on bringing young entrepreneurs together to talk about business strategies. 

“I have been able to meet other people who are passionate about their businesses and have different [interests]. If I would have had a community like this in the beginning, I think my story would have gone a lot differently because I’ve done most of it alone,” Sigel said. 

While Sigel has faced many challenges with running her business alone, Sigel’s customers and community always support her during the tough times.

 “The support that small businesses get is a lot more personal and community-based, and [the businesses] need that to function. It is not easy to navigate a small business on your own, so [small businesses] all depend on each other,” Sigel said.

If you want to support Sigel’s business, visit her website, The Cotton Candy Girl

Amy Jordan

Jordan displays her current inventory of necklaces. Photo courtesy of Rachel Jordan.

The pandemic created free time for many people, so senior Amy Jordan used this new time in solitude to explore her childhood aspiration of making jewelry. Since June, she has started her

own jewelry line called JewelrybyAmyJ and now sells her beaded necklaces on Etsy. All of her profits go to charity. 

Jordan is an avid hiker and beach-goer, so her best selling line of choker necklaces is inspired by nature. The line features a variety of designs with multicolored beads and pendants such as sand dollars, hearts and stars. Creating designs inspired by the environment gives Jordan an outlet for her creativity. 

“I’m a super methodical person, so I find it really relaxing to put beads on the string and to think of a design in my head and turn it into reality,” Jordan said. 

Leah Huizenga, a friend of Jordan’s, has purchased rings and a necklace from the jewelry line. She especially admires Jordan’s designs and innovative ideas. 

“[Jordan] is always so good at … finding the right color combinations. I think they’re all super beautiful. Especially with her silver; she always finds really nice blues to go with them,” Huizenga said. 

Not only are her necklaces aesthetically pleasing, but they also support a good cause. Half of Jordan’s profits go to Communities for a Better Environment, a nonprofit organization that supports environmental justice in low-income neighborhoods. The other half is donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. 

“During the pandemic, [the San Francisco Food Bank] was overrun and super overcrowded, so I thought they would need more funding. [I also chose to support] Communities for a Better Environment because in college, I want to major in environmental studies and specifically concentrate on environmental health and environmental justice,” Jordan said. 

This bestselling blue, white and silver beaded necklace features a sand dollar pendant. Photo courtesy of Amy Jordan.

By owning a small business, Jordan has gained a deeper understanding of the role she can play in mitigating the effects of climate change. 

“I’m passionate about minimizing my carbon footprint. I think it’s important to shop at small businesses because they’re generally more sustainable, and you’re not supporting huge corporations that exploit their workers and pollute,” Jordan said. 

Although it is challenging to balance the demands of running a business with water polo, swimming and school, Jordan has learned to organize her time and boost her efficiency. 

“[To own a business], you have to plan ahead and be strategic. When I started, I didn’t think about shipping, what materials I would use, how long my processing time should take or what my prices should be. It’s the logistical side that I wasn’t sure about,” Jordan said. 

She quickly learned how to price her necklaces by scouring the Etsy website, using other pieces as reference points. Jordan also learned to prioritize customer satisfaction.

“It’s really important to ship out your [product] and respond to messages from customers quickly because they like having [a seller] who’s responsive,” Jordan said. 

Through her experience of being an entrepreneur, Jordan has been able to explore her interests and grow from the challenges of designing and marketing products. Huizenga believes that starting a business at a young age helps teens see themselves in the workplace and make a change in the world. 

“Especially now, during COVID-19 in quarantine, it’s been really helpful for kids to reflect and … starting a business is a great idea for many people to explore their future [interests],” Huizenga said. 

If you want to support Jordan’s business, check out JewelrybyAmyJ on Etsy.