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Breaking the Barriers, Building My Brand: How the YEO Program Helped Launch My Own Business

August 6, 2021

By Jadiha Aruleswaran, Client of the YEO program.

Abinash Sivapalan, Grant Business Start-up Coordinator, reached out to Jadiha Aruleswaran, YEO Participant, to share her thoughts on her experience with the YEO Program. Read her story below.

What do you visualize when you hear the word “entrepreneur”? Personally, I found it synonymous with someone older than 20, with a university degree, loads of money saved up beforehand and specifically a Caucasian male. So, as a 16 year old brown girl, I was confident that I did not fit the criteria at all.

Just over two decades ago, starting a business would have cost so much. From making sure that you had enough stock ready in person, to renting out a brick and mortar space, getting people to know you even exist (remember social media wasn’t created yet) including many more issues. However, we are extremely privileged in our day of technology where starting a business can be done at the comfort of your own home. On top of that, e-commerce drop shipping saves you the trouble of cramming your home with products and instead shipped by a third party supplier. How amazing is that? 

Last year, I came across a shopify video listing everything I needed to know to get started into the ecommerce industry. For those who don’t know, Shopify is an online software that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products. Around a decade ago, if you wanted an online store, chances are you would have had to code it yourself! Nevertheless, the video was absolutely mind-blowing. Despite having all the resources in front of me to start, I was still lost. That’s when I coincidentally saw the ad for Youth Entrepreneurship Opportunity Program, which of course I signed up for right away. 

I was shocked, inspired, and thrilled to know there were teenagers out there like me who were striving to start a business of their own. The YEO program equipped every participant with the right resources and our own personal mentor to guide us through the way (shout out to Aleeza!!). Staff organized workshops on many topics including marketing, choosing our niches, personal finances and the secret formula that would help anyone kickstart in their entrepreneurship career (unfortunately was not given the ingredients to the krabby patty). At the end of the program, participants were to pitch their business idea to judges and top participants were granted money to fund their business. Who wouldn’t want to win some good cash? Interestingly, my definition of “entrepreneur” drastically changed within the first few weeks of the program. I realized, really, anyone could be an entrepreneur with the right mindset and dedication.

Kalon Skin care

Kalon Skin Care Devices, my ecommerce dropshipping business then came to life. Kalon, by definition, means “Beauty that is more than skin-deep”. This was based on the direct relationship between beauty routines and mental wellness. Through selling affordable skin care products, I wanted to remind customers that physical beauty is temporary while real beauty comes from within. The birth of my business was definitely not possible without the help of YEO staff and my mentor Aleeza, who overtime became a really good friend of mine. She was always there to answer any questions, whether it be how to gain traffic on the website or reaching out to suppliers and for that I am truly grateful. 

Fast forward came the final pitching day where more than 20 presentations of business ideas were shared. Kalon Skin Care Devices placed in the Top 5 and let me tell you, the pitching was just the tip of the iceberg to what the YEO program offered. As a winner, I was provided the option to collaborate with the company SHOPhere in order to create a shopify site of my own! Moreover, winners were granted the prize money in the form of a credit card in order to encourage wise spending. How boujee is that! Post-pitching, I had the amazing opportunity to work closely with Abinash who is currently a Grant Business Start-up Coordinator with SCHC and guided me throughout the whole process. The support I was provided due to the YEO program was completely incredible. 

Throughout the YEO program, I learned that starting a business was more than just striving to make money. Becoming an entrepreneur is to be fearless, open, willing to learn and make mistakes. The skills and habits developed are ones that are transferable no matter what role you choose to put yourself in the future. As of right now, Kalon Skin Care Devices is actively collaborating with third party suppliers in hopes to strengthen the brand for the future. YEO was just my beginning and I hope to grow my business while starting new ventures along the way. 

If you’re in highschool and have creative and lucrative ideas on starting a business, I urge you to start and apply for the Youth Entrepreneurship Opportunity Program! Once you’re in the program, you will always have access to an encouraging community of staff and like minded teens who will become a huge motivator to pursue your goals. Being in the program was without a doubt a life changing experience and hey, you only live once, so go start that business idea with YEO! I believe in you! 🙂     

To learn more about the YEO Program, including what to expect, our prior competitions, and how to register click here.