By Grace Sousa and John Timko
Graphic by Adrienne Lirio
At 3:45 p.m., the last bell rings, and students at South finally leave to go home. Many don’t arrive home until after 4 p.m., or even later for those who play sports or are part of a club. If they want to get eight hours of sleep at night, students are left with at best seven waking hours by the time they get home — time they have to divide between homework and family responsibilities. This ceaseless cycle leaves minimal time on weekdays for students to even consider working.
Yet, junior Timothy Trotman found a way to manage a busy schedule and still make money by owning his own business. By fusing his interest in both sports and photography, he engineered an enterprise that fueled both of his passions.
“I always liked taking pictures, and I have played sports since I was a baby, so I combined the two,” he said. “I started taking pictures of my friends playing sports and then it became a hobby.”
After honing his talents in the visual arts, Trotman was able to charge people for his services. By then, he realized that his hobby could become something more: a business.
He now runs the Instagram account @producedbytimmy where he showcases original highlight videos and sports photos for both high school and D1 college athletes within the greater Boston area.
For emerging young entrepreneurs, the diligence it takes to start a business and the emotional cost of financial freedom often goes unrecognized.
From societal pressure to self-doubt, becoming an entrepreneur is a massive undertaking. Starting a business requires initiative and creativity; however, the reward – a sense of financial and personal independence – gives students a bridge into adult life.
Breaking the Barrier
Along with allotting time within a demanding academic schedule, entrepreneurship requires repairing the fixed mindset that holds many students back from pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. Often, students worry that they are not capable enough to put their ideas into action. They undervalue their ideas and feel less inclined to take risks in fear that the world will focus only on the flaws in their undertakings.
Turning an idea into a project requires ambition, but history teacher Michael Kozuch said that it’s easy for students to let doubt creep in.
“[Students] feel like their voice doesn’t matter, they can’t make a difference, [or that] no one is going to listen to a young person, and we need to pop that bubble,” he said. “Time and time again, young people have made a difference.”
Trotman said he faced similar fears pertaining to how others would judge him when he began his business.
“With a bunch of other people in the same industry, I was nervous about getting business or being seen as someone else who was just hopping on the wave,” he said.
Overcoming his initial hesitation, Trotman said he ended up ignoring what other people thought of him to pursue his passions.
“If you have a dream, that is your dream, and other’s opinions aren’t going to help you achieve that dream,” he said.
For small business owners to be successful, they must have confidence in their capabilities and recognize their ideas as worthwhile. By making their product accessible to the public, entrepreneurs are vulnerable to judgment; however, they must take the first step to gain confidence in their work and decisions. Kozuch said that over time, that confidence will come naturally.
“Even if you don’t have confidence, fake it until you have it,” he said. “Doing [uncomfortable things] will bring that confidence.”
While starting a business, especially at a young age, it’s easy to rely completely on the support of parents and adults, but English teacher Deborah Bernhard said that taking action is the only way to build the confidence and maturity that is vital for entrepreneurship.
“Knowing what you need to do, asking for help and getting what you need is hard,” she said. “I’m guilty of that too. It’s easier to let things happen than to make things happen.”
Being an entrepreneur requires teens to navigate their own paths and learn new skills along the way. Senior and co-owner of Student Landscape Sam Klein said the potential benefits of starting a business outweigh the initial nerves of getting started.
“It can be anxiety provoking to think you could make a decent investment and get no return,” he said. “However, not taking that first step could cause you to miss out on a load of future opportunities.”
Klein said he used his ultimate goal of providing quality land services while improving local communities to motivate himself to take the first step.
“At first, I struggled to find my voice and clients,” he said. “It took me to find what my mission was and tell people what I had to offer that gave me a sense of place.”
The success of students’ small businesses has not just given them more money; they’ve also become socially and financially independent. Although independence looks different for everyone, it plays a key role in each entrepreneur’s daily life.
“Independence means having the ability to express myself through my content, without having due dates or a criteria,” Trotman said.
With the freedom to work on his own schedule, Klein said that he learned valuable lessons unique to business owners.
“Being a small business owner has definitely developed a greater understanding of being independent,” he said. “I am also learning lessons with money at a young age, which I’m definitely grateful for because it will give me a head start on handling money when I’m older.”
Although financial independence is a critical part of life, it can cause friction between parents and children when parents see the need to step in and provide assistance. Sophomore Gavin Sousa, the owner of GAS clothing, said he has made enough profit to start buying his own equipment, but his parents still try to interfere out of a protective instinct.
“Sometimes my dad will try to tell me what to do or how I need to be spending my money, and while I appreciate the help, sometimes it gets to be too much,” he said. “Sometimes I wish he would let me figure it out on my own.”
According to relationship coach Shika Thakur’s 2023 article, “How To Deal With A Controlling Parent In Adulthood”, constantly trying to help your child can become overbearing parenting.
“Parents’ constant meddling into children’s decisions and affairs can push them away. Even though controlling parents say things with good intention, it often comes across as nagging and authoritative,” she said. “Taking care of their finances can be signs of parents controlling their children’s lives. While they have their concerns for children, controlling them can create a stressful condition for them later.”
In order to ease family tensions, Sousa said it is crucial for him to have conversations with his parents about regaining authority.
“I try to keep my business to myself as much as possible because if I let my dad get too involved it takes the fun out of running a business,” he said. “I try to tell him that if I need help I will ask.”
Living Your Own Life
By starting their own business ventures, South’s entrepreneurs have developed life skills that teach them how to navigate not only their careers but personal life as well.
According to the 2018 article “Your Child’s Self-Esteem” approved by child psychologist D’Arcy Lyness, confidence is crucial in every aspect of a child’s life.
“Self-esteem helps kids cope with mistakes. It helps kids try again, even if they fail at first,” she said. “As a result, self-esteem helps kids do better at school, at home and with friends”
With independence and confidence, South’s entrepreneurs are able to use what they’ve learned through their experiences within other areas of their life. Klein said that he has learned skills that are useful for life after high school.
“I get to learn a lot about the operational side of business which gives me a lot of experience for college,” he said.
The sense of confidence stemming from experience extends to other areas: whether it be taking initiative socially, politically or academically, young entrepreneurs have learned how to turn a concept into a reality and use their unique creative ideas to help others.
Klein’s business has also started a community service program that provides lawn-care for people who are not able-bodied.
Klein isn’t the only entrepreneur whose business has impacted the community; with many high schoolers beginning their own businesses ventures, teens are creating change all across the country.
The results of a 2022 survey from Junior Achievement USA conducted by Ed Grocholski showed a rise in likelihood of teen entrepreneurship rather than conventional employment.
“Approximately 60 percent of teenagers are more interested in someday starting their own business instead of working a traditional job.”
High schoolers are proving to break the historical standard of undertaking a conventional employment path. They are writing their own blueprint and deciding how they want to manage their business and their life.
With a fresh blueprint comes fresh possibilities; the emerging generation is offering the world a new perspective.
Overcoming the mental challenges that comes with starting a business is just the tip of the iceberg; being your own boss demands self-accountability. As an entrepreneur, developing ambition and drive are incredibly important and valuable to running an efficient and successful business.
Junior Neil Giesser, a videographer who runs the Instagram account @shotsbygeez, said that fighting through the human habits of letting yourself take a break or avoiding tasks that demand hard work isn’t an option as a teen entrepreneur.
“Without a boss, it can be very easy to slack off or not work,” he said. “You must be able to push past those feelings and do what needs to be done.”
Kozuch said that it’s easy to let the work pile up and get overwhelmed, so it’s crucial for young business owners to maintain belief in themselves.
“When you think you can’t. That’s just in your mind sometimes,” he said. “We can do hard things.”
Klein said that he’s been able to take away important life lessons from his experience starting Student Landscape.
“If I want to make something happen, I have to be the one to make that idea into an action,” he said.
Creativity in the Workplace
Older generations stress the importance of choosing a job that you enjoy doing, but that remains difficult for teens to put into practice. South’s entrepreneurs have discovered the value of using their own creative ideas to develop a job that they love.
By linking his business with creative expression, Sousa’s clothing brand brings him joy because it allows him to creatively explore something he is passionate about. He said that his favorite thing about having his own business is creating something meaningful.
“I enjoy creating things for people and seeing people wearing my clothes,” he said. “It’s cool seeing my imagination come to life”
The ability to combine their interests into their work lives makes student’s jobs another part of life that they look forward to, rather than a dreaded future.
Art teacher Amy Nichols said that creativity can lead to a greater sense of independence and confidence.
“Students who tend to interpret assignments for themselves instead of following a set series of steps without thinking take on leadership roles,” she said.
Although teen entrepreneurship may seem to be just a way to avoid a mundane, traditional career path, South’s entrepreneurs have shown that it can be a way for teens to pursue their interests in an impactful way.
Through South’s entrepreneurs’ efforts to improve their financial state, their small businesses have improved the lives of others. Their ambition and leadership are creating change felt throughout the community.
In this particular time in history, Kozuch said that taking initiative is as important as ever.
“We are in an initiative time period, and I am hoping that continues because we have some big challenges that we need to address,” he said. “When the people lead, leaders will follow.”