Katelyn Barclay started Teenography, a photography service run by teens, about two years ago with one employee. At her first event, she ran out of business cards. The Weston teen knew she was on to something — she just didn’t know how big.
“If you said I might have 19 Teenographers, videographers and a photo book service in two years, I would have said ‘Are you OK?’ ” said Barclay, who won the Business Plan Challenge High School Track for her company that was already pulling in revenue at the time of her win.
Teenography’s core business is children’s birthday parties; a differentiator for Teenography is that its teen photographers can join the kids on the slide to get the perfect shot. But since winning the Challenge, Teenography has expanded the business geographically to Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, added video and photo book services, and now offers Teenographers for all kinds of events — family celebrations, small Bar Mitzvahs, even a recent 85th birthday party. It has also been hired for corporate headshots and product shoots for small businesses.
“It’s definitely been a year of expansion,” said Barclay, now a senior at The University School in Fort Lauderdale. “We opened in Miami-Dade, thanks to our Miami Herald win. It’s really cool how it has all worked out.”
We opened in Miami-Dade, thanks to our Miami Herald win. It’s really cool how it has all worked out. Katelyn Barclay, CEO of Teenography
Learning to manage other teens has been a challenge for Barclay, who is an AP honors student and also is a competitive volleyball player. “I've had to hire and train them and, most importantly, I have learned how to respond when they aren’t doing their jobs in the manner we need and expect,” she said. Finding teens with a professional work ethic has also been a challenge.
Barclay also learned another important lesson: She can’t do it all. “The business can only run smoothly if I accept that there are people out there that are better at certain things than I am,” Barclay said. “Because of this, I ended up forming a teen team of directors who help to manage our finances, social media, charity portion and human resources.”
This teen team also gives her Teenographers experience running portions of a business, such as balancing the books, running social media campaigns and building community relations.
Teenography’s main source of marketing has been word-of-mouth, thanks in large part to parents in the community: “Lately, a lot of the teens have found us instead of us finding them. They see other kids who are working as Teenographers; their interest is piqued, and they really want to try it out.”
The charity arm of her business is growing, too: “I love to give back because the community has been so good to me, and I’ve found that a lot of our photographers like to give back, too. We have donated over 300 community service hours.”
Going forward, Barclay is looking into strategies to grow faster and reach more people. At the Miami Herald luncheon for winners in June, many of the judges, all successful business people, brought up strategies for expansion. Particularly helpful was Mike Tomás, who recommended she read the book Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) by Salim Ismail — which she did. “[Tomás] was amazing. Currently, we are considering expanding into an online platform.”
As for college, Barclay is deciding between 13 institutions, and she wants to study business and entrepreneurship.
Teenography’s advice for Challenge contestants: “I would definitely recommend testing the viability of your concept in the real world simply by talking to who your target market would be and see if there is truly a need for your business. Also, I would strongly highlight what makes your business unique in comparison to your competition,” Barclay said.
Zander Futernick has caught the entrepreneurial bug.
Or maybe he was born with it. His parents are entrepreneurs. His father, in fact, is in the transportation industry and was a source of inspiration for his winning business plan entry. Futernick submitted a plan for a trucking service that seeks to combat veteran joblessness by hiring mainly U.S. veterans. It’s called USA Veteran Transportation, or USAVT.
Now, nearly a year after the then-senior at Ransom Everglades won second place in the Business Plan Challenge, Futernick is at New York University’s Stern School of Business and enrolled in a small international business program there called Business and Political Economy — and he is making tracks, quite literally. During his sophomore year, he will be based in London, and in his junior year, he’ll head to Shanghai.
While he hoped to pursue USAVT, “we are still working toward meeting federal regulation requirements,” he said. “You think one year is a lot of time, but believe me when I say it totally is not, especially with something as federally regulated and industrial as USAVT.”
Still, his father is working on it with him, and support networks don’t get any better than that, he said. “We have some good partnerships for when the time presents itself, but right now I am more focused on new technology ideas.”
And those ideas are popping.
He and his friend Diego Casabuena, whom he met at NYU, throw around crazy startup ideas all the time. “We will literally call each other in the middle of the day to discuss any new ideas we have. I actually have a whole section of password-protected notes on my phone of the ideas he and I have,” Futernick said. “Many of them are probably a little too futuristic for society to accept, but I’m confident we'll come up with something soon.”
To that end, they are setting up a holding corporation and putting some structure around their partnership for when they do start a company. That is something he learned from his father: Building a strong foundation is very important in business.
Most recently, he joined MEO, his mother’s startup, as a strategic development adviser. With a social entrepreneurial mission, MEO creates artistic labels designed uniquely for your chargers so you don’t get yours confused anymore. He helps shopMEO.com with social media and strategy.
Futernick continues to work on TechKnowStart.org, which he started in Miami while in high school. It builds computer labs and connects volunteers with those labs. He recently took a course in nonprofit management taught by the CEO of DoSomething.
USAVT’s advice to contestants: “JetBlue’s business plan may have been written on a napkin,” Futernick said. “Yours shouldn’t. Take your time and flesh out every detail you can.”
JetBlue’s business plan may have been written on a napkin. Yours shouldn’t. Take your time and flesh out every detail you can. Zander Futernick, winner for USAVT
While seniors at Ransom Everglades, Wesley Villano and Eduardo Garcia-Montes came up with a winning business plan: helping disadvantaged students more easily navigate the college application and scholarship process.
Their plan for a MyScholarship app, which won third place in the Business Plan Challenge High School Track, was designed to be a step-by-step guide to applying for colleges. It would educate users about financial aid options and how to fill out the complex Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. MyScholarship would then find right colleges using a variety of criteria.
“Eddy and I have been really busy at our respective schools and haven’t done too much with MyScholarship, but this kind of service is definitely something we both remain passionate about,” Villano said. “I would say that the best plans come from a tight balance of creativity and good financial numbers. Both are very necessary for good plans, and one can’t be prioritized over the other.”
Villano is at Wesleyan University, studying English and philosophy, and focusing on creative writing. In the short term, he’s working on possibly getting a play he wrote produced, and longer term, he wants to write for television or Hollywood. This summer, he hopes to work for the UM Center for Ethics and Public Service.
Garcia-Montes is at MIT and plans to study mechanical and electrical engineering. He plans to work on some research related to mechanics this semester, and he intends to gain experience in the financial world this summer.
MyScholarship’s advice to contestants: “I suppose the biggest lesson I learned in the last year was that the most successful entrepreneurial ventures are driven by motivations to benefit others in the community as opposed to yourself. I would recommend new entrants use this idea when coming up with their own plans,” said Garcia-Montes.
The biggest lesson I learned in the last year was that the most successful entrepreneurial ventures are driven by motivations to benefit others in the community as opposed to yourself. Eduardo Garcia-Montes, co-winner for MyScholarship
Villano added: “Make a plan and send it in. Don’t worry how good it is, just go for it. Miami needs ideas. And whether we realize it or not, we all use the entrepreneurial side of the brain our whole lives.”