By Laima Tazmin
Discovering entrepreneurship and technology has been the pinnacle of my life. The progression into this world was so instinctive that I still cannot pinpoint where it began. At seven years old, I picked up an old HTML book left by my brother, a computer science major, and found myself instantly enthralled by the ability to convert words into a visual presentation. By the fifth grade I had visions of becoming a "successful business woman in technology" as I had penned in my school journal. But it was during the sixth grade that I was presented with the idea of starting a business at a young age by a mentor from NFTE, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. This prospect had not struck me before, but I seized the opportunity eagerly. After winning my first business plan competition, I began to realize my future goal.
I am excited about further developing my understanding of technology and applying it to my vision.
This history always inspires me. As a young girl, I never limited myself to "girly" activities, though I loved Barbie as much as the next girl and my favorite color is pink. Without knowing, I had submitted myself into a field ruled predominantly by men. I noticed it when I attended business events and found myself as not only the youngest, but the only female not in fashion or cooking. However, I quickly learned that being out of the ordinary garnered support and enthusiasm from businessmen and women alike. My favorite memory during that time was a conversation I had with a director from Microsoft, who listened to my eager ideas about the Internet and told me that with determination I can achieve what I want. This lesson has stayed with me ever since.
Interestingly, most of my clients are unfazed by my age or gender. Instead, they are won over by my professionalism and uncommon fresh outlook. My strategy to offset any bias has always been to let my results and products speak for themselves. And while this has removed any particular challenge to attract customers, other challenges as a young female entrepreneur exist. Time management has been the biggest challenge for me over the course of five years. While most business entrepreneurs are out of school and can dedicate all their time to their venture, I had to balance school hours, homework, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and some down time with my business goals. There was no secret formula and a lot of adjustments required, but I found the busy life very comforting.
The second challenge was looking professional, not just sounding professional. Though I enjoyed communicating with my clients and meeting them in person, I found it a hassle to dress the part of a business person. There were not any good clothing options for a teenage girl who wanted a business suit that was young and hip, but professional. Now, looking back, I find that problem became an opportunity as I am developing a clothing line with this mission.
Since setting forth into this world, I have grown more ambitious and passionate about the ways I can make an impact. I have been lucky to find a support system (every emerging entrepreneur needs one), including NFTE, my mom and several seasoned mentors who I learned from. I never let my age or gender be a deterrent. Instead, it is a rare advantage that allows me to soak up lessons and hardships and ultimately break the mold.
I am entering Columbia University, the School of Engineering and Applied Science this fall to major in computer science and economics. I am excited about further developing my understanding of technology and applying it to my vision. My business motto is constantly in the back of my mind, based on a quote by Calvin Coolidge: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence."
When I started working with Laima, I at first was like, this young woman, I don't know how she's going to really get it, and help me out, because I had a certain amount of ideas about how things should go. But because she's a real young woman, she has ideas that I might not otherwise have thought of.
The prize was $1,000 grant. And I thought "Wow, I won money ... this is really fun, this is exciting."
So I thought, I'll start and develop it, and use
that money to start a