In the senior year of high school, I decided to start a T-shirt company. I was the go-to T-shirt person in school - or really, the only one who knew how to use the coveted Adobe Illustrator program that not many in my school had at the time. And I knew I always wanted to have my own company and be my own boss. So it made sense to create some kind of entity that would merge the two. It had to be a social enterprise though. And that's where the micro-scholarship idea came in. I was passionate about education and believed it was a human right. I always knew how lucky we all were at such an expensive, private foreign school, and I knew how many millions around the world were denied their right to even a primary school education.
I don't even remember what the profit allocation was, but I decided that a large percentage of profits would go towards building an education fund for local school children. The idea of micro-scholarships was that these small amounts of money, ranging from about $50-300 in Korean money, would be awarded to students who need help for the seemingly small but expensive things like school supplies.
I knew the T-shirt guy, I had the designs all set, I had the company story, so I decided to do a pilot sale at my school's International Fair, which attracted lots of families. My friends, pictured below, were kind enough to be my sales team. I did a mini training for them, briefing them on the company mission, gave them name tags, and we were off to sell for the one day at the fair. Lots of students bought T-shirts, each for a little less than $10 in Korean money. Families walked by, asked about the company, and bought a few T-shirts each in support of the cause.
At the end of the day, we sold out except for a dozen or so and made over $500. This would be my seed money. The problem was though, I hadn't thought of what I'd do after the pilot sale. The reaction was good, but I had no idea how to move forward. How does one legally start a scholarship fund? How do I make sure there are desirable T-shirts every season where the good cause of the company isn't the only driving force behind sales?
Sad to say, the "company" went nowhere as I was soon swept away with graduating high school, then being shipped off to the U.S. for art school. The money from the pilot sale was kept in a separate bank account that I would cherish until the day I could really start a company. However, I ended up using it for my own tuition during the first year of college. I guess I was my own recipient, but I was definitely not the "child in need" that I was envisioning to support with my non-existent company.
This is my failure #1, which I don't think I've learned from yet because I'm about to graduate college, and I still haven't founded my own company. I'm starting to feel like it's a curse. I hope it's not, because I really cannot do a 9 to 5 job, staring at a computer all day. I mean, how are there such things as "serial" entrepreneurs? Founding one seems hard enough. But two, three, or more? Must be magic. I want to change the world - in a good way - through good business, good design, and good people. For any serial entrepreneurs out there, any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.