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Students, teacher discuss experiences, benefits of student-owned small businesses

Sophomore Lilliana Cate works on ideas for her business, “Pink Lemon Boutique.” Cate worked on her business regularly at school on her computer and phone. Cate’s business can be found at @shoppinklemonboutique on Instagram and TikTok. (Abigail Lee)

This school offers an array of business classes, but sophomore Lilliana Cate took her passion for business a step further. After taking Principles of Business Management during her freshman year, Cate said she used both the knowledge she gained from the course and the money she earned through a business competition to open her own boutique, called Pink Lemon.

“I competed through (a business competition) and I was able to win some money, and with that money, I used it to buy my business license, my LLC, and (another) license I needed to be able to buy clothes wholesale,” Cate said.

Cate’s experience is not unique. According to Bankrate, an independent publisher and comparison service, there are 33.2 million small businesses in America, and 10% of them are owned by high school students.

Joshua Shelton, business teacher and Entrepreneurship Club sponsor, said there were a number of high school business competitions, such as the one Cate described, that aimed to help students start businesses of their own. Shelton also said helping students to participate in those contests is one of the main focuses within Entrepreneurship Club.

Alan Huang

“The main emphasis of Entrepreneurship Club is just to bring students together that have a passion and an interest (for business),” Shelton said. “For starting, planning, growing, managing their own business. One of the main activities that the students are engaged in is the Start Me Up Cup, (which) is sponsored by the state bank. At the end of the year, all of our Entrepreneurship Club members participate in a Shark Tank competition, and the state bank has provided, I think, $3000 (to the winners).”

For his part, Franklin Vrtis, Entrepreneurship Club member and sophomore, said he and his father owned a small business even before Vrtis became involved in Entrepreneurship Club.

“In 2018, my dad registered (for a) limited liability company,” Vrtis said. “And then, I think it was either the summer of last year or the year before that, we started selling board games. The first one that went to market was ‘Roundabouts’ and it was kind of the brainchild of me and my dad over the summer.”

Vrtis also said, while his dad does most of the paperwork for their company, he hopes to go into business after high school.

Shelton said he would encourage more students to try opening their own businesses.

“I think that I would love to see more students give the Entrepreneurship Club a try,” he said. “So many kids think that they’re unable to start their own business, to run their own business. (But) there are kids in high school right now that are running multi-million dollar businesses.”


Sophomore Franklin Vrtis plays his prototype board game Ducky Numbers during SSRT. Vrtis carried his games around and played them with his friends at school. Vrtis had created other games such as “Roundabouts.” (Abigail Lee)

Cate said she agreed with Shelton, and added that the key to opening a business as a teen would be to surround yourself with people who can help.

“Just find a support system,” Cate said. “I have the (biggest) support system who really supports every move I make. (If you have that), chase your dream.”

Vrtis said his parting advice to any student wanting to start their own business would be to keep trying, even if the process is difficult. 

“For me, when I was making (my) card games… at first, I didn’t want to fail, because no one wants to fail. (Failing) is a big hurdle to go over. But the first card game (I) made was called Tag, and it really didn’t work well, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to make card games, I didn’t know how to write the rule book. It was just kind of a rough little bump,” Vrtis said. “(But) it worked out, and (my dad and I) worked on it together to make a really solid product.”

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