Ruby Waechler is a 15-year-old entrepreneurial, home educated dynamo from California. Here she explains what it's like starting an online shop as a teenager.
In this article
By Ruby Waechtler | @nativefern
Hi everyone! Today I'm going to be sharing a few things I've learned while owning a small Etsy business as a teenager. I suppose I'll start by sharing how my shop, Native Fern, came about.
Ever since I was little, setting goals for myself and achieving them was really fun for me. When I was 11, I decided I wanted to buy a surfboard and learn to surf, so I asked my mum if I could open an Etsy shop to help earn money for my surfboard fund. She agreed, and hence... Native Fern was born!
I opened my shop selling flower earrings, rings, and hair clips. Later I moved on to painted peg dolls. Last year I finally found my niche, and am still making macrame plant hangers and wall hangings.
I’m not claiming I know everything about running a shop. But I’ll share with you what I’ve learned along the way, which may or may not work for you. My hope is that you'll be inspired to start your own business.
So let’s dive in!
While a lot of things are similar for adults and teenagers in running a business, there are definitely a few differences. Being a teenager, you need to ask permission from your parents to advertise your business on social media (see next paragraph for more on that!).
Is it legal for a minor to have an Etsy shop? Yes! Just Google “Minors on Etsy – Etsy help” if you're interested in reading more.
Ask your parents if they’re comfortable with you advertising your product on Instagram or other social medias.
If Yes... Awesome! Social Media can be such a great way to tell people about your shop! I don’t have any experience to share about any platforms except Instagram (this is what you get for reading an article written by a teenager haha!) but I’d be happy to share the top three tips I’ve learned.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Starting an online shop as a teenager has it's limitations. And it can be tricky without getting to advertise. My parents didn’t allow me to be on Instagram until I was 14, and I’m still am not allowed to say where I live or that I’m a teenager.
But your parents know what’s best for you, and there are other options! Asking friends and family to spread the word about your business is very effective! Also, have you ever considered going into a local shop and asking them to sell your product wholesale? Get creative, I’m sure you can come up with something that will work for you!
So maybe you already know what you want to sell, maybe not. I certainly didn’t when I opened my shop. If your like me and all you know is you want to start a business, I’d suggest brainstorming a big list of ideas of what to sell. It can really help you think outside the box.
Okay, so now you have a list of ideas of what to sell. The first thing to ask yourself is “would I buy this?” This is such an important question! Chances are, if you wouldn’t buy it yourself other people won't either. I tried to avoid that question while I was selling flower earrings & little painted dolls because I knew that I would not be buying those things. But now I can confidently say that I would definitely buy one of my own plant hangers or wall hangings!
I've gone through a lot of times when I just wanted to close my shop and be done with the whole thing. It can definitely be pretty frustrating! I'd say the best thing you can do is just take a break. Anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years. Or never if you decide it's not for you! One of the nice things about being a teenage business owner is there's absolutely no pressure to support yourself! Feel free to keep it fun and go at your own pace.
As for staying inspired, my favourite thing to do is brainstorm good strategies, exciting collaborations, and new products. It really helps me to get excited about my shop again! Another good way to keep my business moving forward is reading inspiring books- 'The E-Myth' and 'Craft Inc.' are two of my favourites.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions/feedback, I would be tickled pink if you shot me an email! My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re on Instagram, come follow me @native.fern!
Ruby Waechtler is a 15 year-old-homeschooled girl living on the California coast with her mom, dad, and sister. She loves to surf, go on bike rides, and explore the beautiful town she lives in. Ruby also owns a handmade Etsy business, Native Fern, where she sells macrame plant hangers and wall hangings.
'Power Chickens' is the fantastic creative writing work of Ethan Discher, one of our first ever Mulberry Young Writers.
Story by Ethan Discher
Aged 9 | Gympie, QLD, Australia
This is a story about four chickens - one is a rooster (Roo) and the others are hens (Fris, Big Hen and Little Hen). They look like ordinarily chickens but they have superpowers.
Their superhero names are Fris the Spine, Roo the Pecker, Big Hen the Whacker and Little hen the Diver, They have 7 babies whose super hero names are The Flatulences. Warning from Big Hen “do not go near the babies, thanks”.
They live in a ginormous pen with a phoenix egg that is actually a teleporter. The adult chicks often use it to get to fancy restaurants. The babies aren't allowed to use it, they have to wait for their dinner.
One day Roo yelled, “Oh no look there's only six chickens left”. One of the other chickens squeaked “Another chicken and I were walking last night and a robber took him”. Fris said, “let's go through the phoenix egg”.
When they went through the robber was fighting police chicks. The police chicks fight with chick guns. The ammunition in the chick guns comes from baby chicks’ farts. All of a sudden the robber was knocked down by the toxin of a fart. “Yessss” boomed Roo and his family. “You haven’t stopped me yet” spluttered the robber “come out men”.
While the fighting was going on, 12 of the robber’s men were underground, digging a hole to the service station. They dug up to the surface and Roo said: “looks like we’ll have to do a bit of fighting ourselves”. CRASH!! BANG!! BOOM!! It was a big fight but, eventually, the robbers gave in because they were scratched and bruised and stank out.
Roo and his family are now back living happily in their pen. They still fight robbers, but that’s another story…
We chatted with Adelle, an 11-year-old home educated girl from Victoria about her love of astronomy and space travel. Adelle was recently given the incredible opportunity by IMAX Australia to do a video interview with former NASA space astronaut Marsha Ivins.
I have wanted to be an astronaut since I was five years old. My sixth birthday party was space themed. Back then I was in school and one of the girls in my class said: “space is boring, it would be more interesting if you had a fairy party!” I still had the space party and it was really awesome!
I don’t remember anything specific making me interested in space, I’ve just always had an interest for as long as I can remember.
I love the idea of being able to float in micro gravity, and how microgravity affects everything like being able to drink water blobs from the air! I really enjoy working with science and technology such as robotics, electronics and coding. This is the type of work I would like to do in space as a mission specialist.
Adelle in her amazing space-themed bedroom.
Yes I do think being homeschooled helps. I can research whatever I want basically whenever I want. I don’t research or read about space every day but definitely every week. In my house we have more than 30 space books about topics like astronomy, spaceflight, astronaut biographies, Women In Space and how to become an astronaut. I also have 5 documentaries about spaceflight, and love spending time watching astronauts on the international space station on YouTube.
As we don’t have an Australian space agency Australian astronauts have to move overseas. So far there have only been 3 Australian astronauts (only men) and they all moved to America and had to get US citizenships before applying to the NASA astronaut program. The only other Australian that I know of is Beth Jens who is currently working for Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and is applying for a US citizenship so she can apply to the astronaut program. I have recently got in touch with Beth by email and she has agreed to stay in contact and answer questions.
I am not sure if I will be applying to NASA as there are 5 main space agencies at the moment that I know of: NASA (National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration), ESA (European Space Agency), RFSA (Russian Federal Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
My plan is to first go to NASA space camp in Alabama. Space camp offers a realistic taste of an astronaut’s training and flight experiences. To save up for space camp, i'm going to busk with my balloon modelling business Twisting Time every day in the summer holidays. I am also looking into aviation and scuba diving lessons.
I also love to go to any space events that I can. This year on a trip to England I went to the National Space Centre in Leicester and I also got to see a special exhibition on Cosmonauts from Russia at the London Science Museum.
Adelle on set at IMAX, interviewing Marsha Ivins.
Marsha was really lovely to work with and made an effort to help me feel comfortable. Marsha also gave me some awesome gifts before the interview. They were: all five of her mission patches, two signed posters of her in space and 3 promotional documentary postcards given in ‘A Beautiful Planet’ drawstring bag.
The IMAX producer/camera man Rob was also really friendly and nice to work with. First, they clip a mini-microphone to the top of your shirt. Then they drop the cable from it down your shirt and then another part of the microphone goes in your back pocket. That makes it really uncomfortable to sit on. Then we sat down on stools in front of three cameras that were positioned to capture different angles and bright portable lights. Then the interview and filming began.
I was very nervous! I had never interviewed anyone before then and I also had no experience with being on camera!
First I did a lot of research on Marsha Ivins. I read every article I could find online about her and watched everything I could find about her on YouTube. She also features in one of my space books ‘Women Astronauts’ by Laura S. Woodmansee. I took this book in with me and got it autographed by Marsha. Then after doing that I made up my questions and practised the questions about 2-3 times a day, until I had basically memorised it.