Origami Owl Founder
Bella Weems never saw herself as a teenage founder of a multi-million dollar company. All she wanted was a few thousand dollars for a car.
“When I was 14, I went to my parents and told them I wanted a white truck for my 16th birthday. They said I wouldn’t be getting a car unless I earned one, and that in our family if you want something, you have to work for it. It seemed like everyone at my high school was gifted a car, so I was disappointed, but I did respect their decision.”
As Bella was brainstorming what she could do to earn money for her car fund, jewelry automatically came to mind. As a little girl, some of her fondest memories were visiting the bead store with her mom, picking out favorites and integrating them into necklaces and bracelets for herself and for her friends. As a crafty kid, this seemed like the perfect fit. In that moment, Origami Owl was born.
Making the jewelry was enjoyable, but selling it was a different story. As an insecure 14 year old girl, it was hard to put herself and her designs out there, especially with constant negativity from those who doubted her, but she pressed on.
“I blocked out the negative voices and listened to those who supported me, I just went on with faith veryday, believing I could do it and that everything would work out the way it was supposed to. I knew that if I gave it my all and did my best, I would be satisfied with the outcome no matter how successful I was.”
Success came eventually, but there were a lot of long days and nights and serious sacrifice both personally and as a family before Origami Owl would really take off. Bella would spend all day in high school classrooms, then all afternoon and evening at her mall kiosk, selling her designs. She tried to live a “normal” teenage life, participating in theater, choir, school musicals, and high school social life, but it was tough.
“There were so many days when I just felt overwhelmed like I couldn’t do it anymore. Running a business and being a high school student is not easy. One night I remember working at my kiosk and feeling like I couldn’t handle it all. I sent a text to a few of my friends and within 30 minutes they were all there helping and supporting me.”
Surrounding herself with great people has been the key to Bella’s success. “You can’t do anything in life alone, so surround yourself with people who believe in you.” Bella’s parents have loved and supported her on every step of this journey, and she has amazing friends and business associates who share her enthusiasm for Origami Owl. She keeps everyone on the same page by creating vision boards and sticking to their mission statement, “Be a Force for Good,” which directs every decision they make as a company.
Valuing people, having a vision, and living by a mission statement has been essential as Origami Owl has expanded again and again. In the board room, Bella is often the youngest person around the table, and has had people be dismissive of her success and opinions because of her age, but it doesn’t get her down. She has a burning faith in herself and in her purpose that carries her right on by those who don’t think she is old enough or experienced enough to do something great. She enjoys proving them wrong time and again and hopes her story inspires other teens to take a leap and follow their passion without hesitation. “Never let anyone tell ou you are too young to follow your dreams.”