18-year-old brings multi-million dollar jewelry company to Canada
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, April 10, 2015 9:37AM EDT
A business-savvy 18-year-old from Arizona is bringing her multi-million dollar jewelry company to Canada.
Bella Weems founded Origami Owl when she was just 14. Her customizable jewelry designs have since become wildly popular, generating about $250 million in 2013 alone. In February, Origami Owl launched north of the border, marking its first international expansion.
The company uses a direct sales model, recruiting sellers, called "independent designers," to host sales parties, or "jewelry bars." Guests are invited to pick from a number of charms to customize lockets and bracelets, and the hosting sellers get a portion of the profit.
"Origami Owl is custom jewelry, that’s what we really focus on," Weems told Canada AM on Friday.
To demonstrate, she showcased her own customized necklace, which featured a sunflower charm, a cupcake and a Canadian flag, in honour of the company’s expansion.
Weems calls the products "living lockets," and says even she has been "amazed" at how successful they have been.
It all started, Weems said, when she asked her parents for a car for her 16th birthday. They refused and instead suggested she earn the money to buy a car herself.
Weems raised $350 from babysitting, but soon realized she was going to need more lucrative work if she wanted the money for her dream car. Her parents suggested she start a business, and after looking at jewelry online, Weems said she was inspired to start selling her own lockets.
"I wanted to be able to create something custom," she said. "And I wanted to be able to teach people how to customize their jewelry."
Weems called her company Origami Owl after her favourite animal and the origami decorations hanging in her room.
She started selling prototype lockets to friends and family after school in 2010, and then expanded to a mall kiosk in 2011. By 2012, Weems began selling her product through direct sales. She now has more than 60,000 direct sellers across the U.S.
"When people kept messaging us saying 'How can I be a part of this? Where can I get your product?' and it wasn’t just people from where I was from, it was people from all over. That’s when I was like, 'Wow, we really have something special here,' " Weems said. “It’s amazing.”
For now, Weems is the founder of the company -- but not the head of it.
She graduated high school last year and just finished an internship at her own company, where she learned about the different departments that make her vision a reality.
And, in the end, she did finally get her car: a Jeep Wrangler, which she named "Alice."