Entrepreneurship is all about fitting your skills and creativity to serve the needs of those around you. 19-year-old Raymond Lei is doing just that as he helps people everywhere customize their style through his T-shirt company ooShirts.com.
The idea for ooShirts was sparked in 2006 when a group of Raymond’s classmates needed custom t-shirts for their school club, “Monta Vista Tennis Club.” Then a sophomore in high school, Raymond took up the task of finding a company to print their shirts. He looked through both local and online companies, only to discover time after time that the Tennis Club couldn’t afford to have its design printed.
Disappointed at the poor selection of affordable services, Raymond vowed to one day start a t-shirt company that saved its customers money. He gathered up $2000, began planning and in March of 2007 the first ooShirts website was launched. The site allows anyone to upload their own design, pick a shirt style and color and have their t-shirt printed and shipped. Ever since, Raymond has been serving up personalized style a tee at a time. Check out what he had to share with Dreamer ENT about being a young entrepreneur:
Dreamer ENT: Tell us about you: How old are you, what school do you go to, your major and year?
Raymond Lei: I’m 19 years old and I’m a business major at UC Berkeley. I’m going to be a sophomore next semester.
DE: Tell us about your company and the concept and mission behind it. Where did the name come from?
Raymond: The company sells custom printed t-shirts to groups. Typically, you need a large budget to get your shirts done, but my goal is to make this affordable by running a more focused and efficient business.
When I was 16, I saw that Google and Yahoo, two of the largest tech companies, had two o’s each in their names. “That must be the trick!” I thought to myself, and named my company ooShirts.
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Interview by Julene Fleurmond, Editor and Founder of DreamerENT.com
Jasmine Lawrence is a young successful entrepreneur who has definitely been soaring and growing toward her dreams. It all sprouted when she was 11-years-old, after she mixed together natural ingredients to create her own hair oils for her broken, damaged tresses. By age 13 her hair was flourishing, and she was selling her hair products to friends. At 15 she shared her story with Oprah and other major news outlets, and began discussing distribution deals with Wal-Mart – all while striving to get her homework in on time.
Now at 17-years-old, Jasmine’s natural beauty care company Eden BodyWorks has bloomed immensely, and she hopes to bring it to even greater heights. She recently graduated from high school, and is studying computer engineering at Georgia Tech. She’s also featured in the film Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon (that we wrote about in a previous post) featuring young entrepreneurs. Watch Jasmine below in a clip from the film:
Video Source: Ten9Eight Website
Jasmine spoke to Dreamer ENT about her amazing experiences, what motivates her to keep going, and how other young people can bring their dreams to fruition:
Note: There are clips from the audio interview sprinkled throughout. Make sure to read the second half of the interview below.
Jasmine On How She Got Started
Dreamer ENT: So tell me a little about your business. How did you decide to develop your own hair products?
Jasmine Lawrence: It was when I was 11-years-old. I got a relaxer that was put in my hair, and it caused almost all of it to break off. So, just loosing my hair was really devastating for me… I’m really usually an outgoing person but I turned into a really shy person… I didn’t want people to take pictures of me, I didn’t want people to look at me because I was so embarrassed all the time. I tried to make different ways to make my hair grow back whether it was taking medications or using hair treatments and things like that but they didn’t work for me, and they were just using more and more chemicals that was making my situation worse.
So what I decided to do was to just use natural things, and I did research online and in books, and I eventually developed a hair oil. It was actually after I went to NFTE that I decided to start my own business.
DE: How did you learn where to get ingredients for your products from?
JL: I started just by going to different natural stores, just getting small quantities of herbs and little essential oils in the city actually, in New York. Then I actually ventured on to the Internet and my parents let me order offline, and that’s when I actually started importing ingredients from different countries.
DE: That’s cool, for NFTE was it a summer camp you attended? (NFTE, or the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship is an organization that helps young people start their own businesses).
JL: Yes, I went to a NFTE BizCamp, and it was just really inspiring.
DE: And what type of things did you learn there?
JL: Wow, I learned, oh goodness I learned so much stuff there! I learned – I learned about the different types of businesses you could be whether you’re a retailer or a wholesaler. I didn’t know that there were different types of businesses – corporations, limited liability and sole proprietorship.
I learned basically how to break down what you’re selling into units, and the difference between profit, revenue… And I learned a lot about marketing and networking. I learned about SWOT, which is Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The three C’s which is customers, concept, and capital. I learned a lot and I still use my NFTE textbook today when I speak to other kids about entrepreneurship.
DE: You said you speak to other kids, do you have a program, or do you speak at schools? How is it?
Listen to Jasmine reflect on her speaking experiences in this clip:
JL: I do a lot of motivational speaking, not just to elementary school kids but to high-schoolers, colleges, and also adults. And I just really enjoy seeing that the adults and the children have the same responses afterwards. They’re both encouraged, they both have, you know, ideas running through their mind, and really all they needed was someone to tell them, ‘You can do it,’ you know, just a positive example of someone whose on the right track.
On Balancing The School Books With Business Books
DE: So your senior year of high school, I know it could be really crazy with senior trips and prom. How is it balancing your business with school?
JL: It’s been pretty difficult to balance school and the business. But over the – (laughs) well I can say over the years now – over the years it has gotten a lot easier. I usually try to schedule my events to be after school, over weekends or over long breaks, so I don’t miss too much of any of my years in school. I usually bring my homework with me and study on plane rides. And when I am in school, I make sure I pay special attention and take notes on whatever the teachers are saying, and even stay after school if I do need extra help. So I make sure my grades don’t slip just because I have to go to a different event or stay up late researching or something.
DE: So is education really important to you?
JL: Oh yeah, definitely. Education is number one for me right now. My business is great, but I definitely plan on going to college and getting a degree in engineering, and in business.
DE: That’s great, it’s great to see young people passionate about their education.
Seeds of Success…
After you started your business, how did it start picking up? Did you start selling it at your school or to your friends?
JL: When I first started I initially just sold to my family and friends, and I moved on to actually selling at my church. Then I actually went to different braiding and beauty salons and I tried to sell it to them… Eventually I got picked up by Wal-Mart, and that was, that was crazy.
DE: I read somewhere that you’re in Whole Foods?
JL: Whole Foods carries one of my lines, and I was really excited about that. And I’m just hoping to continue to expand into a lot of different major retailers so that I could be more easily accessible by everyone.
DE: Can you talk about what makes your product line unique?
JL: Well, there are a lot of things that make it different besides the fact that I made it when I was 11, but the key things that I like to focus on are the fact that my products are truly all natural. A lot of people will just state that, they’ll put one natural ingredient on there and they’ll call their product natural, but I truly, truly strive to put the most natural ingredients in there. Secondly, I try to make my products affordable because I believe everyone should be able to use natural products – they shouldn’t be 30 bucks for a bottle of shampoo. I think that’s ridiculous, it should be something that you can afford to use whenever you need it.
DE: And are they for anyone to use, anyone of any background, any type of hair?
JL: Oh yeah, that’s another thing that I’ve been trying to stress – that they’re for any age, any race, anyone out there who basically has hair. I’ve been using it on my little sister since she was born, my nephew was just born and he uses it. My grandmother whose 80 uses it. I’ve had people from all over the world, I’ve had orders from so many countries, and Europe and Asia, even to Australia, who’ve used the product and loved it.
DE: Wow that’s amazing!
Jasmine Shares Hair Care Tips
DE: So what’s your hair care regimen?
JL: (Laughs) I wrap my hair at night, and I usually wash my hair every other week. I try not to press or flat iron my hair everyday. I use my oil in the morning to get rid of any dandruff or dry scalp… I use one of my products called Hair Milk when I kind of want that natural wavy look. (Laughs) I don’t know, I’m a big fan of headbands, and side bangs.
DE: Do you have any tips for someone who wants to go natural and stop using chemicals in their hair, like what products do they use?
JL: I have a set of three products and I put them together and called it a hair care pack. It’s a shampoo, a conditioner and a hair milk, and I think those three things will definitely help anyone who wants to go natural with their hair. The shampoo and conditioner is great for helping your hair grow, cleansing it, and just restoring health back into it. The hair milk is a great moisturizer, and the shampoo and conditioner also help with dandruff, split ends, and a lot of problems that everyone has – and it’s reasonably priced. There’s two different ones that they can choose from right now, and I’m working on expanding that too.
On Her Visit to the Oprah Winfrey Show…
DE: You’ve gotten so much press from so many venues, and you’ve gotten press from where everyone wants to get press from – the Oprah Winfrey Show. How did you get to be on that show and how was your experience there? (Click here to read about the episode).
Below, listen to Jasmine talk to us about her experience on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the result it had on her business:
JL: Well, the experience was – I’ll start off by saying the experience was amazing. I had a great time while I was there, I had a great time when they actually came and filmed at my home, my family was just so excited, and Oprah and all of her people were just so welcoming, so helpful, and they just made everything so easy for me. Flying out to Chicago, and being there was just a dream – I was smiling, the whole time I was on cloud nine.
But really, I’m still even to this day not a hundred percent sure how they found me, but one of the producer’s family members, I think it was, was actually using my product, and they saw my story on the bottle, and one day I just got a call from them one day after school and they asked me to be on the show.
DE: Wow, that’s so amazing, and how was the response after the show? Did you get a lot of orders?
JL: Wow, I got thousands of orders after that show, and just the credibility of when Oprah says that you’re doing a good job, (laughs) a lot of people really respect that. And that was one of the boosts of respect that I really needed, someone to just back what I’m doing – not necessarily endorsing my product, but, just telling people my story and why I started this business. It’s one of the things that keeps the quality in my products, because I’m not just doing this business to make money, I’m actually doing it to help other people.
DE: Definitely, that’s that great thing to have as a mission – not only making money but also having a mission statement for your business.
Continue reading the rest of the interview with Jasmine below, where she talks about what she loves to do for fun, and shares some inspiration:
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