Company: Origami Owl Custom Jewelry, Chandler, Arizona
Biz whiz: Chrissy Weems, 38
Working with: Daughter Isabella, 15
Big idea: Custom-made lockets
Founded: June 2010
Sales: $300,000 in 2011
Inspiration: When Isabella mentioned that she hoped to receive a car for her 16th birthday, her parents, Chrissy and Warren (who have four other children, Warren, 12, Brandon, 10, Weston, 8, and Addie, 5), proposed she launch a business to earn money to put toward her own set of wheels, promising to match any cash she raised. Isabella trolled the Web for big-bucks ideas beyond babysitting. She zeroed in on jewelry after seeing a YouTube video about a tween who made over a million dollars selling bottle cap necklaces. She remembered admiring a glass locket a family friend wore and told Chrissy that she'd like to do something like that, but with charms. Her vision: see-through lockets that could be filled with trinkets meaningful to the wearer. Her goal: earn $2,500 in two years for a used car.
Teaming up: Isabella withdrew $350 from savings—doubled by her parents—and partnered with Mom, who had entrepreneurial experience. They purchased lockets, charms, and chains from a wholesaler and made samples, which sold immediately at a friend's salon. "People really felt a connection," says Isabella, remembering how one woman filled hers with angel wings, a birthstone, and baby feet to memorialize a lost child. "The dream of buying the car made Isabella super driven," adds Chrissy. "I'd pick her up from someone's house and she'd say, 'I just sold another $1,000 worth of lockets!'" Fans constantly asked how they could order more.
Growing strong: With $30,000 saved from sales, the pair rented a mall kiosk during the holidays. It opened on Black Friday 2010, grossing $26,000 in five days. They signed a yearlong lease, and Mom took over full-time, with Isabella helping after school and on weekends. In January 2012 they closed that space and took Origami Owl (named in honor of their favorite things) national, shifting to a direct sales model, where mothers and daughters (ages 14 and up) sell at home parties. Chrissy runs the company, with her brother-in-law, Jeff Reinhart, now on board as chief operating officer, and her sister Jessica Reinhart handling marketing. Isabella fits trend forecasting around homework, piano, and theater practice. She looks forward to speaking at their sales conference, a motivational event for company consultants, and to finally buying that car. "The teen years can be a time when kids pull away from you," says Chrissy. "But this business bonds us together."