Starting a Business as a Teenager

Interview with Maddie Bradshaw, President and Head Designer for m3 girl designs.

If you were like most people, at 14, you were probably playing ball or babysitting in your time off from school. Maddie Bradshaw was starting a business. This amazing young woman took a craft she'd been making for years and has turned it into a successful fashion accessories business. She shares her experiences as a teen business wiz.

Maddie Bradshaw is one of the youngest entrepreneurs out there, but don't let her age fool you. This 14-year-old wunderkind has a lot to say.

Tell me about m3 girl designs. What are you doing exactly?

m3 girl designs are the creators of SNAP CAPS®, the original interchangeable bottle cap necklace®. We make a number of different fashion accessories for teen and tweens across the country.

When did you start the business?

I started in 2006, with my mom and my sister. m3 stands for Maddie, Margot (my younger sister) and my Mom.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

Well, I'm only 14 so I have been, and currently am, a full time student. Yes, this is my first business.

How did you come up with your business idea?

My inspiration was during second grade at my middle school. I wanted magnets for my locker and then I took a class where we learned how to start a business. They taught us how to take out a loan at the bank, market and sell a product. Our class made stationary. Each of us applied for jobs. The positions consisted of a business manager, design team, advertising, etc. I became the business manager. They taught me how to write a business plan. This whole idea inspired me. That summer, I had my Mom take me to the library to search for books on "how to start a business". I took bottle caps from my Uncle Sam's coke machine, and turned them into magnets. I gave some to friends, etc. My friends and I all liked them so much; so, I chose to attach them to a necklace. The idea behind my necklaces is to swap them with your friends. Plus, it is fun! One day you can snap on a cap and the next day you can snap on a different one.

What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE...

We started the company with an investment of $300 of my own money with a matching investment from my mother, and today we are still a debt-free company! One of the most important resources we have used is having Public Relations. We recognized very early on that the key to our success was taking advantage of every opportunity to share our unique story: A business started and run by a 14 year old. Through strategic partnerships, including not for profit alliances with national charitable organizations; making targeted print, radio and broadcast media placements; participating in celebrity events; promotions; online giveaways; posting homemade YouTube videos; posting on Facebook/Twitter; and garnering imperative awards and accolades, the PR efforts have been a key element in the success and unprecedented growth of the m3 girl designs brand. A willingness to participate in such a diverse variety of activities was vital in transforming SNAP CAPS® from an after school hobby into the must-have accessory for tween girls nationwide.

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

Yes, we literally started this business from my family's kitchen table in Dallas. I think because I started this as a hobby, I never felt the pressure to build it into a huge brand and business. It's amazing to think that SNAP CAPS® necklaces and accessories are now sold in over 1500 stores across the country and even internationally!

Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?

My mom and my sister Margot are my partners, so having their input, advice and support has given me the best foundation for a successful business.

It's got to be interesting running a business with your mom and sister. How does that work out for you?

We strive keep a sense of family within our company, and always give back to our employees and community. For example, despite the overwhelming amount of business we do, we still eat lunch together as a group. We work on building a sense of community so everyone feels like they are part of the team, and this inspires them to work towards growing the business.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

My advice for anyone, at any age, who wants to start their own business, is to follow your dreams, and make sure you are doing what you love.

That's great advice for people of all ages, Maddie. I look forward to seeing what you do in the future. Thanks so much for your time.

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  • Emma posted on 4/21/2010
    I love my snap caps! They are alot of fun to wear and trade. I love your idea Maddie. You are so creative.

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