When Bella Weems was fourteen years old, she went to her parents Chrissy and Warren Weems and asked them to buy her a car for her 16th Birthday. They automatically said “No no no! You have to work for what you have in life, and things cannot just be given to you.” Bella thought the response was unfair. All the other parents were buying cars for their kids when they turned 16. Her parents suggested doing additional chores, baby-sit or start a business and save up your own money to buy yourself a car when you turn 16. Bella accepted the challenge.
Bella decided owning her own business was the most interesting option for her. She began mulling over ideas and considered jewelry, particularly the locket. She recalled lockets had been around for a long time, so adding a new twist and personalizing each locket sounded like nothing but a great idea. She asked her parents to match the income she had saved from baby-sitting, and with the funds she received, Bella invested in jewelry making supplies.
Bella started making the lockets and realized she could tell a story with each piece of jewelry by decorating the lockets with individual charms and designs. By using her teenage friends to build her customer network, she began selling her jewelry at parties, at people's homes and at what she dubbed, “jewelry bars.” People immediately loved the products she was creating and kept inquiring how they could share this idea with all their friends and family members.
Over time, Bella started selling at jewelry shows and events. In 2010, she opened a little shopping kiosks at the Chandler, Arizona mall just in time for the holidays. While other teenagers were out having fun, Bella worked after school and weekends on her business. She thought she was just saving up for her car, but soon she began to realize this little dream was quickly turning into something special.
In 2011, Origami Owl experienced a business milestone. The business idea became so popular and was such a huge hit with buyers that the company implemented a direct sales business model and made $280K the first year. Revenue jumped almost 90 percent the next year. Bella’s jewelry empire was officially born.
The company now directly employs 700 people. The staff includes corporate executives to warehouse employees. Origami Owl has a large warehouse situated in Chandler, Arizona. Most of their jewelry parts come from China, and are organized at the warehouse location for output to designers and customers.
In addition to the direct corporate employees, Origami Owl has 60,000 independent designers that sell the products through hosting jewelry bar parties. The independent designers start out by ordering a kit directly from the company. The kits range from $149.99 to $399.99. Each kit contains marketing materials and components to make jewelry. When you sign up as a designer, you are also assigned a mentor.
Origami Owl is a family affair. Bella’s Mom, Chrissy, serves as a co-founder and works closely with the design team. Bella’s Uncle, John Weems, is President of Internet Technology and her Aunt, Jessica Reinhart works in marketing.
After the direct sales platform took off in the second year, the company had made 20 million, and today the company is worth $250 million. In only three years, this special little lady turned a dream of owning a car into a massive business that has given many people jobs. They are the 35th company in the nation for supplying jobs. This type of growth is unprecedented.
As for Bella, how does she handle being a teenager and running a multi-million dollar company? Well her family wants her to stay grounded and to live a normal life like any other teenager. She goes to parties, hangs out with her friends, attends public school, but she also shows up at her business as an intern! Bella spends time in each department interning so she can learn the business. Bella also fully intends on attending college after high school.
One of Bella’s main goals for the company is to give back and help other women. Origami Owl is a chance to own your own business, and she feels this is positive for women and offers them an opportunity to be entrepreneurial. Her personal statement on her website says, “But there is something else I want you to know, we've always been so much more than just a jewelry company. From the beginning I wanted my company to be different, I wanted it to be a force for good; to help others achieve their dreams like I achieved mine. It didn't happen overnight, but with lots of hard work, Origami Owl grew from my after school job to a multi-million dollar company. It’s been such an incredible journey, and I believe our continued success has come from our intention to make a difference in people’s lives; we never put profits before people.”
Bella did reach her ultimate goal. She got a car on her 16th Birthday. A white jeep she nicknamed Alice. Seeing her dreams come true has only inspired her to do more and to want to give back more. The sky is the limit for Bella, and she says, “No matter how young or how old you are, you can always reach your dreams like I did.” Maybe everyone should order one of her lockets, and customize it to fit the story of their dreams!
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