Zoey Leith, a junior at Joseph Charter School, won awards for “Top Producer” and “Most Likely to Become an Entrepreneur” as the ninth year of the Mentor Match Youth Entrepreneur Program wrapped up Wednesday, May 6.
Leith won for her business Forget-Me-Not Designs, a hand-crafted home décor business, according to a press release.
The awards and presentations were held via a Zoom meeting in light of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Zoey was first to launch her business by signing up for two holiday bazaars,” said Stacy Green, program adviser. “She was the first to develop a flyer and a social media presence. Zoey had over 50 individual transactions, a program record.”
In addition, Leith partnered with Mentor Match President Foster Hobbs on a custom commission for the Wallowa County Courthouse after Commissioner Susan Roberts saw a display of their products at the Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Citizen Awards Banquet. Hobbs, a senior at Enterprise High School, started Lostine River Forge and makes custom ironworks. Working with Leith, they designed a coat rack that is now on the third floor of the historic building.
“Zoey’s creativity far exceeded anything we thought we wanted,” Roberts said. The commission for the youths led to an order for 18 door and drawer pulls custom made by Hobbs. “They are really unique and quite beautiful,“ said Roberts, adding that the teens did great work and were a pleasure to work with.
Most Valuable Entrepreneur, based on attendance, participation and going the extra mile for the program was shared between Katrina Haines and Aubrina Melville, both juniors at Enterprise High School.
“These two were always the first to show up for class and helped me get set up,” Green said. “They had near perfect attendance and both stepped up in other ways, Aubrina to help lead the pizza ticket fundraiser and Katrina by selling the most tickets.”
Of nine entrepreneurs who began the program in September, six completed, developing their own business idea, launching and learning along the way.
Wesley Johnson, a senior at Enterprise, founded “Wallowa County Ski and Snowboard Wax,” and could be seen at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area this winter, working in the shop waxing skis and snowboards. “Charlie (Kissinger) let me share the space, and I paid him $2 out of the $10 I charged,” Johnson said. He admitted to not being above bribes of free sodas and snacks, and also shared the challenge of being in the shop when the powder was fresh and his friends were out on the slopes. “That was the hardest part for me,” he said.
Enterprise senior Zion Mark created “High Quality Cow Hides,” which he sold in his mother’s Joseph Main Street boutique, ToZion. Mark said the experience helped him learn how to read customers’ cues to improve sales techniques.
The program’s mission is to get more teens interested in business and entrepreneurship as a career and educational path so they can create economic opportunity for themselves and others, preferably in Wallowa County.
“My favorite session was when Natalie Millar (current general manager of Terminal Gravity) came and talked about accounting,” Aubrina Melville said. “Now I am interested in pursuing that in college.”
Due to COVID-19, the class had to cancel its Leadership & Innovation Tour to Seattle, but most of the participants plan to continue their businesses over the summer and beyond.
The program is funded and administered by the local nonprofit Building Healthy Families through its tutoring and mentoring program.