Adding, “running a business is not about what you like, it’s about what makes the customers happy,” she tells ghanabusinessnews.com in an exclusive interview via the internet.
Leanna Archer is only 13 years old and still in school at Our Lady of Providence school in Long Island, New York – she still does her home work, but she is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of her own business, Leanna’s Inc., a hair and body care company she started in 2005.
“I was eight when I initiated the idea of starting the business, it became official after I convinced my parents when I was nine,” she told ghanabusinessnews.com.
Asked how she got the idea to start her business at that tender age, she said, “I heard my parents always saying that the only way to get rich in life is to own your own business.” These words from her parents motivated her to start thinking about and eventually trying her hands at her business.
She started a business selling hair products made from a home-made recipe that her grandmother used on family members’ hair before she was born.
Leanna makes approximately $5000 monthly selling her products and she has been featured at number 12 in Inc. Magazine’s “30 under 30” entrepreneurs in America.
She has also been interviewed by most of the major media in the US, including ABC News, New York Daily and MSNBC.
On October 16, 2008, she rang the bell to open the NASDAQ Stock Market and on that day the market went up 400 points!
But Leanna didn’t have it easy starting her business.
“My very first challenge was convincing my parents that I was capable of following through on my idea to start a business,” she said.
She recounted her parents’ reaction when she told them about starting her own business. “My parents were shocked, they thought it was a phase that I would eventually get over, however they realized that I was serious when I began making efforts my self to get the license to begin.”
Leanna told us she did the research herself and found information on how to register her business. “When I gave all these information that I found on how to get the license to start, they took me serious and then they helped me to obtain the license as well as helping me to develop a website.”
“I am very grateful to them,” she says.
According to her, she needed their support in the beginning to work on structuring her days to fit school, sports, music lessons and her business. Moreover, she needed them to scale the legal boundaries for setting up her business as a teenager.
“It was also a challenge to get everyone to take me seriously because I am so young,” she added. But her tenacity and determination paid off eventually.
When ghanabusinessnews.com asked Leanna why she chose the line of business that she did, she said “I didn’t really choose the line of business, it chose me. It was like destiny. The recipe was in the family for a long time but no one thought of the idea to sell it to the public. Early on, I realized that I was marketing the original hair dressing that my mom used in my hair since I was three due to all the compliments that I was getting. That is when I became convinced that I should make it available to all.”
Admitting that she did not know much about Africa and for that matter Ghana, she gave this advice to young Ghanaians, “I’m thinking in Ghana, anyone can start a business too but as for the US, yes anything is possible but make no mistake that if it’s not for a parent or a legal guardian, starting at a very young age is not possible because of all the legal issues.
But let’s say you are 18 years of age which is still young, anyone can start a business.”
Leanna then gave the example of how she encouraged her elder brother to start his own shoe business. “After motivating my brother, he started by sketching some shoe samples, then had one made, sells it, then he had about five made, now he’s got a bunch, he was 16 at the time. You can view his shoes at www.giovhanny.com.”
“When you start a business at a young age, especially while you’re in school and living with your parents, you can start with one item, I started with nothing. I sold one jar of grease, then two etc. when I had enough money to get a business license, I did, then when I had enough money to get a website, I did, all that took time but I was in no hurry,” Leanna admonished.
“You have become famous, how do you handle your fame?” We asked her.
“To me, everything is still the same. I don’t think I’m any different than I was before my fame. I still play with the same friends. No one in my current school knew about my business and my money until they saw an article about me in a newspaper,” she answered.
The teenager born in Queens, New York, has been a motivational speaker over the years telling both children and adults about her story.
Leanna also offers advice to her customers over the phone about how to use her products. “I give my customers advice about the regimen they should follow to promote hair growth and they all take me seriously,” she says.
Leanna once wrote to say she would love to come to Ghana and talk to Ghanaian young people to motivate them. When she was asked if that plan was still on the table, she said, “my plan to visit Ghana and go to schools, churches and villages to talk to kids and adults is still the same. I’m hoping I can get an invitation either from the government or an organization that can sponsor my trip. Otherwise, when I can with my own funding I will plan the trip.”
Leanna’s hair and body care products are currently sold in shops and hair salons across the United States and online on her website www.leannashair.com.
Leanna goes to school, does her homework, travels around to give motivational talks and with her parents’ help she packages orders during the weekends and ships to her customers.
Only 13 years old, Leanna Archer has learned to succeed, and she sums up her secret in these words, “I have learned that I must remain determined and tenacious; I have to continue to have structure and discipline. I have to continue to work hard at what I do and I have to continue to listen to my customers. Running a business is not about what you like it’s about what makes the customers happy.”
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
Email: [email protected]