Twelve-year-old Kylie MacDougall smiles wide when she talks about how busy she is filling orders for Scotia Scrunchies.
Selling scrunchies she makes at home in the bedroom of her family home which overlooks the Bras d’Or Lakes, Kylie is donating all profits from sales of her hair/ fashion accessories to charity; the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, specifically.
Launching her products in September using primarily her Scotia Scrunchies Instagram account, Kylie had sold close to 400 by publication time and raised about the same amount.
Now she has also expanded to physical retail outlets, like the Cape Breton Farmer’s Market and Christmas/ artisan fairs where she works the table and has one Pharmasave location selling for her.
“I think she’s really learned the power of social media and how to promote yourself. She’s getting a lot of people reaching out…We don’t know where they came from,” said Kylie’s mother Carrie.
“A lady from the Nova Scotia Rugby Association messaged me and asked me to make 30 – 100 tartan scrunchies,” added Kylie.
A local Pharmasave agreed to sell Kylie’s scrunchies after she cold called them, asking if they could. She and her mother dropped 30 off after school on November 15. By 9 p.m. store employees had called back requesting more – they only had two left.
Cold calling potential distribution outlets like Pharmasave isn’t the only thing Kylie’s been doing on her own. With the guidance of her parents and some training in things like spreadsheets from her mother, Kylie’s been operating Scotia Scrunchies like a small business.
She reinvests a portion of sales to make more product, explores different ways to get her scrunchies to people and is learning how to market and sell her supply.
“We did buy the sewing machine and the first bit of materials… but that’s been it,” Carrie said. “Now she uses her own debit card, she uses e-transfers for most of her scrunchie sales and they go right into her bank account.”
Kylie also does the majority of the work, although she has recruited her brother to iron the fabric so she can speed up the process. Her mother answers any Facebook orders because Kylie isn’t familiar with that social media platform and her target market are more likely to be using Instagram.
“I’ve definitely strengthened my sewing skills,” she said. “And budgeting, I’ve definitely learned a lot about that, like trying to figure out what I really need (material, supplies) and what is something I maybe don’t need right then. Mom helps me keep a spreadsheet, to keep track of what I need and stuff like that.”
Carrie said she thinks the endeavour is also helping her daughter learn time management skills (“with a little pushing of course”) and how to communicate with strangers through her sales.
“She had to deliver some scrunchies today to a lady at a Tim Hortons. I told her, “You have to go in yourself. It’s your thing,” said Carrie who often drives her for deliveries or to markets.
Kathleen Yurchesyn, CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Kylie’s Scotia Scrunchies is a good example of how doing good can also help build business skills. Setting up a business model that reinvests a portion of revenues, for example, is a hands on lesson in business sustainability.
“For a business to sustain itself, you can’t take 100 per cent of revenues,” Yurchesyn explained.
“You always have to have a percentage of revenues that needs to be reinstated, for things like wages, office space. There’s always a margin (before you can take a profit.)”
For Kylie, this margin varies per scrunchie she makes. Cost ranges from $3 - $4 each, depending on material and her profit margin is between $1 - $1.30 per scrunchie.
Marketing and distribution are other areas of business Yurchesyn said Kylie is developing skills in.
“She’s seeking out opportunities and finding places and businesses that would align with her purpose for charity and for her product,” she said. “That’s huge.”
“You don’t set up a business and then not talk about yourself…that makes or breaks you. She’s building up brand equity, which is important for small business success.”
However, it isn’t just charitable initiatives like Kylie’s that help develop business skills. Going door to door canvassing for a charity, selling raffle tickets for the school band trip or collecting bottle for the hockey trip can also help hone important skills for business success.
Comparing this to “sales” Yurchesyn said it was one of the most important skills for any small business owner or entrepreneur.
“Although daunting for a young person or an older person…it’s an opportunity to practice many business skills; how to communicate with people, how to sell something (a charity, a chocolate bar). And you get to learn patterns in the community, when you’re successful and when you’re not.”
There is no age limit on the entrepreneurial spirit, Yurchesyn adds.
“I think an entrepreneurial spirit is innate. There are those who are running businesses and they feel it, a fire in their stomach. They are passionate about their project, they can see what’s next, what’s in the future…entrepreneurship knowns no boundaries.”
Saying she “truly believes that entrepreneurship is the backbone of our economy”, Yurchesyn praised Kylie for having a “great business mind.” She also pointed out Kylie’s learning a lesson in outsourcing by having her brother help iron when she’s busy and her mother take care of social media platforms she’s not familiar with.
“If you’re not good with numbers and you hate math, don’t think you can’t be an entrepreneur. There are people who love math, who are accountants. You can outsource this and it’s good in business to know when to do so,” she said.
With the orders pouring in online for her Scotia Scrunchies and a four-day Christmas market coming up, Kylie and her mother said they might have to do some outsourcing and have a few friends over to help.
As she talks about the challenge ahead of her, to meet the demand for her scrunchies and raise more money for charity, Kylie’s eyes widen and her smile seems to confirm: she’s ready for it.