Isabella Weems set out to get a used car. At 14 years old, she figured if she started making some money and saving early, she would have the money she needed by the time she was 16 and had her driver’s license. Not only did she succeed in her goal, she founded a $250 million business in the process. Now 17 years old, she’s a high school student multi-millionaire.
The Foundations of a Fortune
Weems made her accidental fortune in jewelry as the founder of Origami Owl. Origami Owl is a custom jewelry company that uses independent sales representatives to hawk the company’s wares. It’s a business model known as direct sales and should be familiar to anyone who has been to a Pampered Chef, Partylite, or Mary Kay party. The sales representatives buy the company’s products at a significant discount, then sell them to end-user (aka “retail”) customers for a marked-up price that allows the sales representative to make a profit. Much of the company’s products are sold at the same type of house parties that are common to other direct sales companies. There are over 50,000 sales representatives for the company. This is a significant number indicating the popularity of Origami Owl, considering Weems only founded it in 2010.
When her parents suggested she earn her own money for a car, Weems decided to start her own business to get the cash. As she researched business ideas, she hit upon the idea of jewelry when she saw a locket in a catalog. Weems had the idea of updating the traditional locket with charms. She’d been babysitting and had earned $350 at that point, which her parents matched so she could buy wholesale parts to make the lockets with charms of her vision.
Origami Owl Takes Flight
Once the first few lockets were finished, Weems began selling to her friends and they in turn sold to their friends. Together, she and her friends hit on the concept of selling the lockets at house parties organically as a way to reach more people at once. Selling the lockets at boutiques and jewelry stores like Raymond Lee Jewelers and at jewelry shows soon followed. Eventually, she opened a kiosk in a local mall for Black Friday shoppers. This was all done the same year the company was founded. The next year, Origami Owl became an official direct sales company and its revenue increased by 86 times.
The company has taken off from a small tabletop business to a full-fledged organization with multiple employees and different departments. Weems spends time working in each department after school each day as an intern in her own company. Her parents and several key high-level employees are helping her take Origami Owl to the next level and Weems wants to learn every aspect of the business she founded.
Her mother is trying to let Weems keep living as normal a teenage life as possible while still remaining hands-on with her company. While Origami Owl has grown so much that it’s mostly being run by others with more business experience now, Weems is still the official boss and she plans on assuming full control of the business one day. To do this effectively, she feels like she should learn the business from the ground up. That’s just what she’s doing. A business mogul in the making, Weems is an up and coming name in the jewelry business that retailers should pay attention to because Origami Owl is only to get bigger and better if Weems has her way.