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The Beautiful Willa

The Beautiful Willa 

words | Taylor Guthrie

Seventeen-year-old Willa started her skincare line at the young age of 11 with her mother. “It all started when I asked my mom, why isn’t there anything for me? My mom had developed skin cancer in her twenties and the doctors kept telling her that what you see now is a result of what you did or didn’t do when you were younger. A lasting amount of the damage that happens to your skin happens before you’re 18. Because of all my mom learned from her skin cancer experience, it was really important to her that I took good care of my skin. When I got to that age when I started taking initiative to care for my skin, I asked my mom why isn’t there anything for me. At the time, department stores sold nothing targeted for our age group. I viewed that as some sort of injustice because this is really, really important; however, there wasn’t anything out there that was safe or effective or really made just for me. “As teens,” Willa explains, “our skin is going through crazy changes, so it’s extremely important to a) use safe and effective products and b) know what’s in our products.” That’s the mentality from where Willa, the company, was born. The products are not only about providing girls with clean skin care, but also teaching them about how important it is to be mindful of what ingredients are in their products and being an advocate for taking care of themselves.

Although the skin care line began selling in retail stores, Willa and her mother decided to empower teens to sell directly. Young women, along with their mothers, can now sell the skin care products using the Willa app, a personalized website, or during fun get-togethers. It is a great way to earn some extra money, in addition to learning about real-world skills such as marketing, selling and financial literacy. The mother-daughter teams can feel good about representing a skin care line made with high standards and healthy ingredients.  It is also comforting knowing Willa products are never tested on animals. Willa and her mother are thrilled young women can share Willa’s mission celebrating clean, confident beauty.

In addition to working with her company, she is also facing junior year in high school. “It’s definitely stressful and in the beginning I struggled with it and finding that balance of time management between school, work and friends and family. It got to a point where I also found myself overworking and I wouldn’t be getting enough sleep or exercise.” Willa began to successfully change her schedule to achieve more balance. She adds, “I have an end of the day meeting with my mom to talk about things that are going on with the company, but our real work is delegated to the weekend because that’s just when I have more time.” Having basically grown up with the company, she and I really care about the company so much. I’ve basically grown up with it so it means a lot to me but at the same time school is also a huge priority.”

With her family’s help, Willa has been able to make her dreams a reality. ‘They’re really really supportive and I’m so grateful for that. I have a ten-year-old little sister Julia who’s gotten to the age where she wants to start her own business. My family has supported me every step of the way and I’ve also developed a really strong relationship with my mom because of it. Now, it’s not just a mother-daughter type of thing, but it’s also we’re working together all the time. We run a business together so we are able to go on trips and share new experiences that have brought us a lot closer.”

Willa continues to embody her favorite quote from Mother Theresa, “Do small things with great love.” Even with her busy schedule, Willa continues to give back. She also recently launched a program based on the book Success for Teens developed by the SUCCESS foundation. “It’s basically an online group of girls whose moms can join as well. We are all reading this book, Success for Teens together. We will read a chapter each month and then reconvene at the end of the month on Facebook live to discuss the chapter. I absolutely love it because I personally have learned so much. After my mom and I read a chapter, we’ll talk about the lessons presented in the chapter and try to find little stories from our own life to include in our lessons for the Facebook live. We not only learn a lot about each other, but we also learn to self-analyze and improve who we are.” Willa was recently honored by asking to speak at her high school during an Anti-Bullying presentation at her high school. She was honored to share her experiences with her classmates. She is truly an extremely kind and caring person whose large success is met with an even larger heart.

Recently, the Willa’s skin care company became a part of the Origami Owl family of brands.  They are working together to develop and launch a new product line called Willing Beauty, a company committed to healthy, effective, no-brainer beauty. Willa and her mother, Christy, are pleased as they continue in their mission to share skincare expertise because they know when women feel proud in their skin, their futures flourish; beautiful on the inside and out.

 

Willa’s favEs:

Face the Day; spf 30 tinted moisturizer - “Girls hate wearing sunscreen because it’s white and sticky and gross. So we created ours with a universal skin tint to offset the white from the zinc and it goes on with a velvety texture, so it isn’t sticky.”

Skinny Mini; lipgloss - “The way we designed our packaging for these glosses was so that they’d slip easily into your pocket for easy carrying.”

Skin Elixir - “It’s changed my life. It’s formulated with seven essential oils that work together to not only reduce the effects of acne but to moisturize your skin. It’s incredible!” 

 

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Stacey Ferreira

Stacey Ferreira

words | Elie Carlo

The first time I heard 24-year-old Stacey Ferreira speak was when she came to my school to share with us her path to co-creating the web application MySocialCloud, and later her own company, Forge. Upon graduating from high school in 2011, Stacey decided to spend the summer helping her brother, Scott, write code for an application idea he devised after losing all of his passwords when his computer crashed. This idea would become MySocialCloud, a cloud-based web application to manage users’ bookmarks and passwords. The siblings would end up borrowing $4000 dollars from their parents (which they later paid back) to buy two charity tickets to meet Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin. Because of this meeting, Mr. Branson later invested in their company and they successfully sold MySocialCloud in 2013. Stacey, who had postponed college to focus on MySocialCloud, then found herself back at NYU when she was awarded the Thiel Fellowship, a grant program offered to visionaries under the age of 22. She packed up and left New York once again and relocated to Northern California to develop her own company, Forge, an online demand work force. Last year, she was honored to be on Forbes' List of 30 under 30 - the brightest young entrepreneurs and leaders in the US.

Recently, I had the great joy of sitting down with her to discuss her inspirations and share some words of wisdom for young aspiring entrepreneurs:

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Stacey credits her parents for helping her develop her strong work ethic. “I think that the best thing that my parents did is have the attitude of ‘you get exactly what you work for and nothing more.’ So, growing up, I never had a free handout. My parents didn't just give me stuff. If I wanted something, I would have to work for it,” says Stacey. “In life, you have to work for everything that you get. And sometimes, even if you work hard, you don't get it.”

Additionally, Stacey believes attending Xavier College Preparatory helped her prioritize her work and organize her time. “Honestly, I think that it helped because there weren't distractions. For me, it was nice to be in an environment where there wasn't outside pressure from anyone and it was just up to me to push hard, learn as much as I can learn, get my work done, and have a fun time doing it. …the relationships I built with a lot of girls there are ones that last, even today, five years later,” explains Stacey.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin and investor in MySocialCloud, and Kristen Madsen, former Vice President of the Grammys and creator of the Grammy camp that Stacey attended, were two other inspirations on Stacey’s path to where she is today. One thing she learned from them was to not give up easily: “Things that are worth doing take time and a lot of people will give up when it gets hard but if you just keep on pushing forward and you're persistent towards your goals, you'll eventually get there,” said Stacey. Another piece of advice she received was to focus on things you are passionate about: “Something that I try to live by is that I try to pick projects to work on that are worth ‘unbalancing’ my life for. What are things that I go to bed at night thinking about and waking up in the morning thinking about? How can I spend my time and energy doing those things? …everything else is noise. So I would say pick things thatyou are passionate about and pursue those things relentlessly.”

Another one of her influences is actress Talulah Riley, who also happens to be one of Stacey’s best friends. “She's also just an amazing role model of someone who is extremely talented and creative. She has an idea of what she wants to and goes out and does it. She's been a big influence to me just because of that. A girl boss who's going at it.”

When I asked Stacey what she likes to do for fun, she jokingly said, “Work.” However, she added that traveling around the world allows her to do what she likes to do the most: “Being able to share my story and share my journey and then talk to other people and learn about the things that they're working on and the things that they're excited about.” In addition, she watches VICE news and enjoys keeping up to date with what's happening in the world. And of course, she does 'normal stuff' such as going to the gym and hiking.

Stacey offered one last key piece of advice for young people who want to become entrepreneurs: “The biggest thing that I want to leave people with is, you don't have to be some wildly special snowflake to do it. As long as you are passionate, you have a vision, and you're willing to do what it takes to get there, you can do it, too.”

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Looking towards the future, Stacey plans to focus on Forge, which has just launched a redesign in January. If you’d like to see what else she has worked on, check out her book, 2 Billion Under 20, which is about young people and the difference that they have made in the world despite their age. Stacey was also featured in She Started It, a documentary about female entrepreneurs in the tech industry.

Stacey Ferreira
 

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Bella Weens. Cover Girl Luca Magazine

Bella Weems

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.”

Bella Weems, Cinder-Bella
Bella Weems, Cinder-Bella

Owlettes

Today there are thousands of teens pursuing their dreams in Origami Owl’s Owlette program. The program was created by Bella in an effort to educate and inspire young business owners. The Owlette program allows youth ages 12-17 to sell Origami Owl jewelry alongside their parent or guardian. “I think it is so important for kids to have the chance to make money, grow a business, and manage their own finances at a young age, so we wanted to create a program that would help them have those opportunities.”

Each Owlette has a different work experience depending on the designer they are paired with. Some Owlettes host parties and work the jewelry bar, others fill orders and check inventory, some take payments and work on marketing and some do it all. Each Owlette is paid by the designer for his or her services and learns valuable lessons about running a business.

Christina Nguyen, her son Zachary Taylor (17) and daughter Alexa Taylor (15) have become quite a team. This trio works the Origami Owl business together, Christina as a designer and Zachary and Alexa as Owlettes. It has given the teens money for electronics and future cars, but more importantly it has given them the skills and confidence they will need for long term success.

Christina has seen incredible changes in her children since involving them in her business. “One of the things I love about the Owlette program is we have a way for our teenagers to learn about entrepreneurship, running a business, poise, and public speaking--while at the same time they can balance the other things in their life that are important, such as school, family, and church obligations.”

Both Zach and Alexa have enjoyed the extra money in their bank accounts and their boost in confidence from presenting and selling, but what they have loved the most is the time it has given them to really get to know their mom.  “My mom’s outgoing and confident – she won’t ever give up on something,” said Zach. And Alexa chimed in, “I love her personality. We’ve gotten closer. Now we have something we share that we like doing.”

Bella Weems, Cinder-Bella

Live Sparkly

Creating connections and an avenue for personal success is exactly what Origami Owl is all about. Attending a Jewelry Bar event is so much more than finding a favorite piece of bling; it is a chance to tell your story. The “Living Locket,” Origami Owl’s signature creation allows people to celebrate, connect, and heal as they reflect their own heart in a piece of jewelry. Those hosting their first Jewelry Bar experience are often surprised by the emotion and beauty of watching someone assemble their first locket. Memories are made, tears are shed, laughter is shared and there are always lots of hugs and sparkle to go around.

With such an abundance of life changing stories, Origami Owl wanted a way to share them, so they created www.livesparkly.com where women and young women from all over the world tell their own living locket story. Some are emotional stories of personal struggle, others are joyous tales of family triumph. Each story is unique but tugs at the heart just the same.

Bella’s story can be summed up in her own living locket. Hers holds: a “B” for Bella; a sun to remind her to be a positive light to others; a few of her favorite things like sunflowers, cupcakes, and pizza; a music note and piano to represent her love of music; her birthstone; and a butterfly to illustrate her immense growth since she started the company and as a reminder to keep growing.

Force For Good

Currently, Bella is especially focused on the growth of Origami Owl’s Force For Good initiative. As a young girl, Bella remembers wanting to make a difference in the world. Sometimes she made a difference by giving a dollar to a homeless person on the street; other times, she made a difference by volunteering with a local charity. “I have always known that I wanted to do something in my life that would impact other people for good. I have been so blessed in this business, and my goal now is to pay it forward.”

Origami Owl is paying it forward on every front. They sell charms dedicated to specific causes and donate the proceeds to the respective charities. In addition, each month an Origami Owl founder heads out to surprise a local charity with a check. These non-profits are often shocked to receive an unsolicited gift that makes such a difference to the people they help. Recently, Origami Owl teamed up with the Microsoft Store to support Helping Hands for Freedom, an organization that helps the families of wounded or deceased veterans find temporary or permanent housing when it is no longer covered by the military.

Bella is especially attached to Child Help which is a foundation that paves a way for abused and bullied children to break free from their abusers and begin to heal. “We have worked with them for quite a few years in helping children understand how to speak up and be safe. We partner with so many different charities throughout the year and love being able to support their efforts.”

Just as Bella believes no one is ever too young to go after a dream, she also knows that there is no age limit for being a light in the lives of those around you. “You don’t have to have money to make a difference. It can be as simple as giving a smile to a stranger, offering to sit with someone who looks lonely, sharing your talents, or volunteering your time with a local charity. I believe with all my heart that one person can absolutely change the world.”  

Behind the scenes

 

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