Meredith and Amy Whitaker
Some mothers pass down the family silverware to their children, while others hand over the secret recipe to Grandma's pot roast. And some mothers, like Amy Whitaker, pass along an entrepreneurial spirit.
When Amy and her husband Steve's daughter Meredith, now 11, went shopping for a friend's birthday three years ago, she couldn't find something she wanted at a price she liked. So Meredith did what any self-respecting offspring of two independent business owners would do: She came up with her own gift idea, made it and then, within months, launched her own business to sell it.
Three years later, Meredith's jewelry line - Freckles, Buttons & Beads - is carried by 55 stores in 12 states.
"I made my friend this button bracelet," said Meredith, "and about a month later I was in a store wearing one where the owner noticed it and asked if they could sell it."
From the button bracelets, it was on to a still-growing line of necklaces, rings, hair clips and headbands. Meredith and Amy find most of the materials online at wholesale prices and the family of three assembles Meredith's designs at the kitchen table of their Powell home. Most of the items are retail-priced between $2 and $8.
"I don't really work on it when I'm in school," Meredith said, "but in the summer, I can do a lot."
The Whitakers demur at revealing hard numbers about sales volume or revenues, but Amy said profits have been good enough to start building a college fund plus contribute about two percent of the profits to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a charity that caught Meredith's attention several years ago because it turns away no child in need of treatment.
In the beginning, Meredith handled most of her sales calls herself, but the family has now contracted with two sales agents to represent the line.
And though it has mostly been a great experience for the family, Meredith said it was tough when she first discovered competitors emulating her product.
"There was a point when I said I quit, I got so frustrated with people copying me," she said.
Meredith paused a moment then, in seasoned 11-year-old fashion, added, "But when you're 8, you don't understand that copying is flattery."
Amy is proud of the balance that Meredith has struck between school, sports and business - and that she's begun passing the entrepreneurial spirit on to other young girls who are representing the Freckles Buttons & Beads products at home-selling parties.
"I like the idea of her as a woman learning business," Amy said. "She's learning how to communicate and how to present herself."
Amy said she's also regards this as a truly creative family endeavor. She tries, she said, "to stress the importance of 'the arts' in children's lives. Whatever medium they choose, parents should support it. Meredith's creativity just happened to become a thriving business."
Freckles Buttons & Beads
The jewelry is carried locally at shops like Kussmaul Gallery, 140 E. Broadway in Granville, and Shyne Gifts, 50 S. Liberty St. in Powell. For more locations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org