contact her at email@example.com; however, Saloman is not starting commissions until after the semester ends.
Estée Goel: artestee.com
Ellary Jenkins: Instagram: bellarydesign
By GWEN OREL
As school went virtual this spring, many Montclair High School students found that the after-school and summer jobs they had planned for did not materialize.
With restaurants closed, teens could not find jobs as waiters.
With families nervous about inviting people in, teens could not find jobs as babysitters.
Without having planned to, some students found themselves becoming entrepreneurs.
They made their own summer jobs.
Rising senior Daniel Moroze began building and selling custom birdhouses.
Eliza Salamon, who is attending Cornell University this fall, began selling pet portraits.
Estée Goel, who is attending Carnegie Mellon University this autumn (online until January), makes stickers and T-shirts.
And rising MHS senior Ellary Jenkins began selling Black Lives Matter lawn signs.
The market found them, the teens say.
Salamon has been painting pet portraits for a few years. But it was only a few months ago that her mother suggested she try selling them.
She uses acrylics, and paints pets in one shade. The portraits are either 12-by-12 inches or
8-by-8 inches. Her rate is $55 to $65.
Mostly Salamon promoted her work in the now-defunct Facebook group Share Montclair, and through word of mouth.
Goel has been making stickers since before the pandemic. “I was getting a new laptop, and I wanted stickers for it,” she said.
Her business began when she made senior T-shirts for her friend group this spring. She began making pictures of people — and demand took off. This past April, she started an Instagram account for her business.
Moroze first made a birdhouse, modeled on his own house, for his mother this past Mother’s Day. When four places he applied to for work turned him down, he began building custom birdhouses that looked like peoples’ homes.
“It’s interesting, because everyone’s house is slightly different because of course, Montclair has very unique architecture,” he said. Usually, he alters the roofline and works on the facade, but some people ask for additional options. A birdhouse can range from $85 to over $125.
For Jenkins, her business began not so much as an answer to the lack of summer jobs in town, but as a way to keep making the art she loves.
Jenkins made Black Lives Matter signs and put them on her lawn, so the people protesting going past her house would see them. People did see them, and asked to buy them.
After original paintings proved too time-consuming, she began using Photoshop and printing out lawn signs at Staples. She charges $35 for a lawn sign, and makes a batch of seven at a time. Like the other teens, she’s sold them primarily through word of mouth and on social media.
RUNNING A BUSINESS
The teens had only very sketchy business plans when they started. “I thought, ‘Oh, it’ll just be a small thing,’” Goel said. She imagined she would give some stickers to her friends. But as the demand grew she began using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything.
Moroze also used an Excel sheet to keep track of costs and expenditures. A bigger challenge for him was budgeting his time.
“I got 10 orders within the first day, and it was pretty overwhelming, because it is like 10 woodworking projects. It’s like making 10 side tables,” he said.
Moroze hasn’t even taken woodworking at Montclair High School, but he has had three architecture classes, he said.
He figured out what to charge by surveying the market to find products that were similar. He found expensive models, and he knew he could not charge that much as a novice builder. He allotted himself $10 an hour as a salary, he said.
Salamon paid herself about the same.
Jenkins’ mom, who is an artist, helped her figure out the details and pricing. “I’m young. I have no idea what I’m doing,” Jenkins said with a laugh.
Goel priced her stickers by looking at what they go for on Redbubble, which is from $1 to $4. “Since I was customizing them, I started charging a little bit more,” she said. “I was doing custom names, maybe logos, your Zodiac sign. And then one of my friends said, ‘Can you turn this picture into a sticker?’” She realized she needed more time to make those stickers.
And though it seems like not very much because the stickers are so inexpensive, people buy more of them. “One of my most recent orders was 10 stickers of 10 people each. So it was $80 from that,” she said. T-shirts are more straightforward; she usually buys a blank T-shirt for $7 and sells it with custom art for $17.
LEARNING FROM BUSINESS
Being an entrepreneur has been profitable as an education for the teens, too.
Salamon found it hard at first to focus, after months of school online. Cracking down on her artwork has helped prepare her for college.
For Moroze, disappointing one client helped him commit to his work. He had made a birdhouse for an interior designer who complained that the paint color on the door of the birdhouse did not match the real house.
“At the time, it seemed pretty disappointing, but in retrospect, it really set me up to realize that there are going to be those challenges. In the end, the person really liked it, and I spent a lot of time detailing the slate roof. And they appreciated how much time I spent on that,” he said. Knowing he’d satisfied someone who is an expert helped underscore his
desire to go into architecture.
Goel learned to research to determine the best materials, and figure costs from that. The independence the teens shouldered at these jobs taught them real and practical skills.
More importantly, Goel’s sticker business brought her back to making art, something she loves but did not have time for in school.
Jenkins has never left art behind, and knows she wants to go to art school but this year she could not attend an art program. She has worked on her lawn signs while she works on her portfolio, she said. And a person of color, she felt great having people support her work: “Seeing my lawn signs everywhere made me feel great that people were enjoying my art for a good cause.”