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Student Entrepreneurs Get an Early Start at Business Ownership

Kendra Wynja - Business, Business Person, Business Woman
Courtesy Photo
Kendra Wynja is a University of Sioux Falls student who recently started an organization and event planning business - KJ Organization and Planning.

If you are waiting for the stars to align to start your own business. Don’t. This is the advice of two University of Sioux Falls student entrepreneurs who launched businesses in 2022.

At 19 Brooklyn Terveen self-financed and launched Brooke and Maize an online clothing boutique. But this isn’t the college Junior’s first business venture.

“At the age of 8 I would go around to friends and family during Christmas time and sell them soaps that I would make. Then when I got a little bit older, I think I was 12, I started a dog collar and leash-making business. I went around to local pet stores and would sell them. I just have always been very entrepreneurial and liked feeling like I am in control, and I like selling products to people,” Terveen said.

That’s not to say owning her own business, while taking 22 credits of college courses, maintaining straight A’s and working part-time as a nanny is easy.

“The biggest challenge is wearing all the hats. As a sole proprietor, I’m the marketing team, the customer service associate, the manager, the social media coordinator - there’s just so many roles that I need to fill as one person, since I’m the only person who works at my business,” Terveen said.

But she says the timing could not be better.

“I’m a business student and I truly believe that starting my own business has been more helpful than any internship,” Terveen said.

Bruce Watley agrees. Watley is an associate professor of Business Administration and Director of the Lillibridge Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership & Innovation at the University of Sioux Falls.

“In the U.S., thankfully you can be worth nothing less than zero. So, it’s good for students, I think to look at taking a chance. If you’re going to look at having an idea, and for whatever reason it fails, it’s better to fail fast and look at learning from that failure and recovering from that. And you can do that much easier at a younger age than if you were in your 40s or 50s or even 60s an starting a small business,” Watley said.

In his entrepreneurial classes Watley encourages students who have the desire to own their own business, but just aren’t sure what it should be, to consider what they are passionate about or seek out problems they can help others solve.

Kendra Wynja took this advice to heart. Inspired by a skill she’s been putting to use since childhood, at 20 she started an organization and event planning business - KJ Organization and Planning.

“Funny story, my mom is probably close to the most unorganized person you will meet. But she’s always like, I need this drawer done, I need these shelves to be organized and I would start doing that. Even with small things happening in our lives, I always had a schedule between me and my brother and where the family was going to be. And people were like, “make a business out of it, what could go wrong,’” Wynja said.

Even though she’s been organizing pantries, drawers and family schedules since elementary school, she says because of her age, it can be difficult to get potential clients to take her seriously.

“I have always had a full schedule and doing a task for them isn’t something I take lightly, I am going to go full on with and take full responsibility for their project, which is hard for some of the older generation to understand,” Wynja said.

Wynja utilizes social media to help build credibility. But says recommendations from clients are really how her business has grown.

“I have done little to no advertising. If someone recommends me, that is a lot greater than any advertising on Facebook or Instagram could do,” Wynja said.

Feedback from customers is also a motivator, said Brooke and Maize owner Brooklyn Terveen.

“It’s so cool to see when customers message me or post in the clothing that they received from me. It’s just so rewarding,” Terveen said.

When asked what advice they would share with other young entrepreneurs, both students say, “start today, but don’t quit your day job.” In addition to school and running their own businesses, the women also work part-time.

Lura Roti is a freelance reporter working with SDPB.