Young entrepreneurs, from those setting up lemonade stands to selling their jewelry to creating a non-profit foundation, are a particularly impressive type of teenager…they have a special internal drive, a knack for business, and are resourceful.
However, not every young entrepreneur can say that they have landed a patent lawyer, marketing team, articles of business, and have a planned exit strategy for when they’re older. But that’s exactly what juniors Kathleen Browne, James Capelle, Christian Gillespy, and Clark Kistler have managed to do.
At the age of 16, the group of friends set out to promote their love of the outdoors, namely by sharing experiences and photos on social media. Kathleen loves to camp and hike, while James, Christian, and Clark spend their free time hunting and fishing. After noticing a substantial following who praised their after-school activities, they recognized a need to create a product that promoted their outdoor adventures and encompassed their daily lifestyle.
That’s where Reedy Ridge Outdoors started. Where it’s going? The sky is the limit. Right now their business model includes selling goods that are versatile: t-shirts, hats, and wristbands to be worn on all those afternoon hikes or simply to lunch in downtown Greenville over the weekend. Once they establish a solid foundation, they’ll expand their business to include more outdoor gear such as fishing lures, microfiber cloths, backpacks, and other camping needs.
All of this is attainable, thanks in part to friend and established entrepreneur Jerry Barber. He’s taken the team under his wing and helped them to achieve their LLC registration. With his guidance, the teenagers have taken a dream and turned it into reality.
Their first real exposure to the public was during the Championship Bull Riding Competition at the T. Ed Garrison Arena in Clemson, which they sponsored. They viewed it as the perfect test market. They had feedback that helped them grow. “We heard that we needed to offer some child sizes, that we need to order extra in certain colors…and to order more orange hats. Those are big sellers,” says Kathleen. After the rodeo, there was a spike in their website views, sales, and interactions. According to Kathleen, these are the type of things that have helped them develop not just as a business, but also as individuals.
Christian echoed that statement saying how much it has influenced his future decisions, “It has definitely increased my understanding and love of the business atmosphere. If it were to end tomorrow, I’d be content because of all that it has done for me. It’s just stuff you can’t get from a textbook.”
Clark said that the experiences he’s had since they went into business has, “solidified the fact that I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
They may be well on their way. Clark mentioned that they reached out for an endorsement from a popular show, Swamp People and are waiting on a response. “It’s all about finding a passion, taking the effort, and making it work,” said Clark.
They are all in agreement that their love of hunting and fishing isn’t just about showing what big of a fish they caught the other day. Education is a big part of their business plan. They want to show their consumer base, and their peers, that it’s about so much more: gun safety, conservation, pest population control are just the tip of what they hope to communicate. You can find articles on their website, www.reedyridgeoutdoors.com, that talk about all of these issues. They hope to keep that part of their business growing to show a different side to the outdoors, hunting lifestyles in particular.
For James, he’s passionate about being a positive role model for his family. He comes from a family of ten, so teaching them how to be safe, to appreciate the outdoors is important. “I want to teach my own kids about the same things in the future and to show that we’re not just a southern stereotype.”
Overall, Reedy Ridge Outdoors has “made us closer and taught us how to deal with personal relationships, how to work in place of business, to find balance in our lives” according to Kathleen.
Whenever they are reminded that they’re just juniors in high school, the group laughs and says that they might as well do something they love while they have the energy.
They’ve already anticipated juggling their academics, sports, and other activities and they didn’t stop. They looked ahead to when they all go off to college or to get jobs. They have a plan to keep things in motion and they see it all as a sustainable company even ten or fifteen years down the road. “We know that we need to continually refocus and talk about how to proceed when we move on to different parts of our lives,” says Kathleen. “We have some invisible contracts and an exit strategy that leaves us all in a good place.”
For them, that is still a long way off and they have a lot to accomplish. When asked what sets them apart from other young business ventures, they all agree with Christian: “we have a genuine love for each other’s ideas and because we have different passions in the same field, that’s what makes us work. We took a leap and didn’t just stop at those ideas.”