Getting down to business

Students pursue future careers and business endeavors using a variety of different avenues

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photo by Desiree Snell

Sophomore Desiree Snell posts pictures of her latest creations on her business Instagram in the hopes of attracting more potential customers. This strategy gives her plenty of experience in interacting with her consumer base and increasing her marketing skills.

Interviewing for your first job. Working multiple days a week. Studying for a degree in a competitive industry. For the average high schooler, the idea of a career can be overwhelming and terrifying, and many are not sure where to start. Often, students begin with the traditional part-time summer job in places like mall outlets or fast food restaurants. Some teenagers have a clear vision of their future, and seize unique opportunities like internships and entrepreneurship to make their visions a reality. 

With small businesses, students are able to flex their creativity and hold complete control over their business ventures. Valuable experience and connections can be made from internships, and can cause smoother transitions into a dream career. Some even grew up in a business environment, with parents who took the risk and started their own companies in the hopes of improving the lives of their families. 

On the small scale

Sophomore Desiree Snell has never been average. A creative person by nature, Snell grew up surrounded by the arts – participating in band, theater and chorus. These days, her creativity is channeled into her biggest passion: creating beautiful desserts.

Owner of small business Desiree’s Delights, which recently passed its one year anniversary on Valentine’s Day, Snell has always loved sharing her sweets with her friends. 

“If you have them at a decent price and they’re homemade, people will definitely buy them,” Snell said.

Snell has been advertising Desiree’s Delights on both her business and personal Instagrams, where she has 887 followers. On her business account, Snell posts pictures of some of her favorite creations and holds open messages for anyone interested in placing orders, which helps Snell feel she is running an actual business. 

“The Instagram account really was… to post the things I make to basically show the processes. I also think that it makes the desserts more interesting and delicious,” Snell said. 

Despite her successes, Snell has had to face a variety of challenges that come with making homemade products. Botched icing or decorations are sometimes obstacles she has to overcome when making orders for her clients. 

Difficult customers are a whole other problem. Snell frequently has customers forget their money when she brings them their order, and they never end up paying her back. 

“One time a cookie broke in the bag and the customer almost didn’t give me the money for it,” Snell said.

These problems, however, are not enough to faze Snell. For her, this small business represents a bigger aspiration. “I would love to open a bakery up one day,” Snell said. “I really hope that I can get better to get to that point.”

I would love to open a bakery up one day. I really hope that I can get better to get to that point.”

— Sophomore Desiree Snell

Junior Chloe Varady’s goals are more short-term, but still ambitious. Going by the name Chloe’s Crafts, Varady only began her handmade jewelry business a couple of weeks ago, but has already gotten several orders. Varady’s inventory consists of a colorful mix of wire rights, beaded rings, necklaces, earrings, and stamped jewelry. 

“I was really motivated by seeing other small businesses,” Varady said. “I also had a lot of people at school tell me that they would buy jewelry from me if I started selling it.”

Even with these small successes, Varady knows not to get her hopes up, and that nothing is going to happen overnight. Right now, her main focus is on expanding her inventory within the next three months and getting cash flow positive within the next six. 

Since first stocking her store only a couple weeks ago, Varady learned that starting a small business requires a lot of effort and dedication, but she says she is very excited to see how it turns out. 

While starting a business may be hard work, there are a variety of things that can be done to optimize success. As both Snell and Varady stress, patience and commitment is key. 

“My advice for other students is just to do it, and not worry so much about what other people will think,” said Varady. “Know to be patient. Sales don’t come overnight, so you have to stick to it and be committed.”

Of course, this ideology is not one that applies to everyone. Several teenagers come from families who live paycheck to paycheck, and they simply do not have the resources to invest in a business from scratch. In addition, it is also difficult for students to balance owning a business with their homework, extracurriculars, health, and social lives. While small businesses can serve as an amazing investment for those who can afford it, they also represent the unfair reality of those who cannot. 

Off the ground

When senior Isabella Franco had to interview for her first internship, she was not as nervous as one may expect. Instead, she was full of confidence, believing in her interview skills and the resume that had already gotten her so far. Naturally, when she got the call that the internship was hers, she was eager to start working. 

For six weeks, Franco worked for mobile vet clinic ShotVet, answering phone calls and emails on their services and helping the marketing department create online advertisements and big posters.

“There were definitely a lot of days where there were so many phone calls coming in, I would have to multitask a lot and jump from one phone call to another while simultaneously answering an email,” Franco said. 

Regardless of how difficult it could be, Franco acknowledges everything this opportunity has done for her. According to a 2019 study reported by Compare Camp, 70% of student interns get offered a job upon their internship’s completion, a statistic Franco fits into. She was offered a position as a kennel technician at Shaffer Animal Hospital and is training there to become a vet technician.   

“The skills that I have learned with my internship and job will definitely come in handy,” Franco said. “My biggest takeaway is that working at an animal hospital requires both animal and people skills.”  

Franco’s ShotVet internship and the subsequent time she has spent at the Shaffer Animal Hospital represents the biggest advantage that could come with student internships: a better idea of what they hope to do. For Franco, she has never been more certain about her career than she is now. 

“I am 100% positive I want to enter the animal field,” Franco said.

As for her future, Franco intends to follow the animal science major on the pre-vet track at the University of Florida. Her ultimate goal is to become a veterinarian, and she intends to use everything she has learned up to this point to get there.

Senior Nathan Gilman has also learned a lot about his future in the workplace from his current internship with Dignitas Technologies, where he writes automated tests for the company’s system and runs tests to make sure the software is ready to be released for the next update. 

Gilman, much like Franco, believes the experience he has gained will help him understand the workings of corporate settings in the future. 

“I feel like this is a good starting point for my career because I’ll be able to not only start learning valuable technical skills but I’ll have references for later career searching,” Gilman said, echoing Franco’s earlier sentiment. 

I’ll be able to not only start learning valuable technical skills but I’ll have references for later career searching.”

— Senior Nathan Gilman

In addition to gaining career skills, internships give students the opportunity to expand their horizons in a non-school setting. While there are some similarities, work and school are very different from each other and students often graduate uncertain with the way the workforce operates. Using these internships, students like Gilman have the advantage. 

“There are standards and regulations that have to be met, which is completely different from school,” Gilman said. 

For all its benefits, getting an internship is not as hard as it may appear to be. One of the best things to do is to talk to the teachers of subjects that may be of interest, and to check out local internship fairs. 

“For a first internship, it is usually local businesses and not huge corporations,” Franco said. “Definitely don’t give up on searching, there will be an internship out there for you.”

From food stamps to customer Christmas cards

Freshman Jaymen Patel has seen firsthand how a business can change a family’s life. Three years ago, his family bought a local Marathon gas station. Considering their household was originally based on just his father’s income, having the gas station as a second source of income was a huge change. 

“We got two incomes coming in our house so the stress wouldn’t be all on Dad – it would be 50 to 50,” Patel said. 

Since 37% of households are single-income, according to the 2015 Pew Research Center report, Patel’s family dynamic is one several are familiar with. The stress can often feel one-sided as the working parent can sometimes struggle to spend time with the rest of their family. Regardless, the business information and experience Patel gained from spending time in his parents’ gas station is invaluable in the long run, with Patel now having interest in starting his own business in the future.  

They didn’t have time at first but when things got better we had more time to spend together,” Patel said. “They have been through a lot and I would love to continue their journey and pass it down one day.”

Junior Tessa Monroe also grew up learning how to manage a company from her dad. Monroe’s father worked long hours and barely got to see his family. After years of economic tension and uncertainty, her dad began Troy Services Lawn and Pest Control, his own pest control company. 

“I was a little kid so I felt no different than before. He was still working long hours but as the business grew I saw him more often,” Monroe said. “That part I remember being excited about. He could finally come to school events and I didn’t have to be alone on ‘donuts for dads day.’”

He could finally come to school events and I didn’t have to be alone on ‘Donuts for Dads Day.’”

— Junior Tessa Monroe

As the second oldest child of seven children, Monroe has been able to see the change in her family thanks to the impact of the business. The transition from her father always working to suddenly being around for the small moments has been a monumental part of her life, and she is able to have a much better relationship with him now. They have traded their food stamps for customer Christmas cards.

“ My dad was working long hours at a commercial pest control company,” Monroe said. “My dad has time to be in the lives of my younger siblings. My youngest brother is close to ten years younger than me and I feel very happy seeing how close he is to dad, because at my brother’s age I barely saw my dad.” 

Growing up with economic hardship can take a toll on any household, especially one with nine members. The fear of unemployment and failure, pressure to keep a steady job so there is always a roof over the household’s head and the major investments are all realities that families like Monroe’s must face before they are able to take the leap into business. Often, there are simply too many uncertainties to take the risk. But when the risk pays off, it completely turns around family life, like the family dynamics between Monroe’s dad and her siblings. This is something Monroe has been able to take to heart thanks to her experiences with the business. 

Monroe’s siblings are not the only ones who have formed a deeper relationship with their father, as she has begun working with him herself. She works part-time doing office tasks and preparing the trucks for work. Though things can occasionally be tense in a family-run business, there is a lot more for them to learn while they are in a work environment.

“At first he was so difficult to work with, he was very controlling, probably a side effect of him starting the business and feeling protective of it,” Monroe said. “I’ve learned a lot about finance and money management from him and he’s developed better patience working with me.”

Despite all the struggles, it is clear her family’s business has brought far more relief to Monroe’s life than it has stress. Considering all the work they had to endure to get to this point, all of their company Christmas cards were worth the food stamps they needed before. 

“It was a hard couple of years but now we’re at the point where my dad has three full-time employees and is making a decent living,” Monroe said. “I’ve gotten closer to my dad, and he’s definitely gotten closer to all my siblings, too.”

Family businesses have the most impact on the dynamic between household members, but it can also change the perspective students have of their future. It gives them the opportunity to learn from their parents and work alongside them so they can gain valuable skills and experience before venturing off into the workforce, experience that can be very similar to that undergone by students with internships or small businesses. 

“I’m able to get a valuable head start on my professional career,” Monroe said. “It really opened up so many more opportunities for me.” 

Student Internship Infographic by Gabriella Herrera

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