T-shirt business glows with growth, helps Charity.
Who can turn a party favor into a million-dollar idea?
Liz and Gabby Sgro, students at Nolan Middle School, hope they can. Two girls, ages 14 and 12, have started their own T-shirt business, “You Glow Girl” T-shirts. It started through their involvement in the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur Academy program — a program for middle and high school students that teaches them how to start and develop a business — last year the girls didn’t have any objections when their parents, Sue and Bill, encouraged them to participate. “It was their passion that made them stand out,” said Barbara Hines, leadership coordinator for the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. “ They knew what they wanted to do and they were going for it, and they still are. Every day they were there they were so engrossed and so concerned about learning everything they could. ey are well on their way.”
Liz and Gabby Sgro earned a $1,200 startup fund during “Shark Tank”-style presentations to an investor panel in October 2015. With part of the money, they quickly ordered their first large batch of T-shirts they hoped to sell 1,000 shirts by January. The girls had their website, youglowgirltshirts.com, running in July, and have used the start of the school year to boost sales, promoting their garb with friends and teachers at Nolan Middle School. They already have lined up some publicity events, including the Atomic Holiday Bazaar in December, at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium. “I like doing the booths,” Liz Sgro said, adding the girls had a booth at Kids Rock Manasota in Lakewood Ranch in June. “It’s fun seeing people’s reactions, and I feel like we’re giving back.”
Liz and Gabby Sgro hope to expand their product offerings over the coming school year with bracelets, other branded accessories and a new You Glow Bro line.They’ll continue to do market research, using friends and fami ly as resources, as they create new products. “You are selling to other people, so you need to think of the customer,” Liz Sgro said. “You have to involve other people. It’s the same process. We already have the experience.” While in the Young Entrepreneur Academy program, the girls used their peers to test their designs, having them sort through a book of images until they settled on a crown as their emblem. Their market research showed neon orange T-shirts wouldn’t sell because they were too “Halloweeny,” for example. “I learned to do anything successfully, you need constructive, tive criticism,” Gabby Sgro said. “You need someone to help you think it through.”
Although the girls hope to make money on the venture, their primary focus is inspiring 7- to 18-year-old girls to be proud and confident, while raising money for charity. A portion
of the proceeds benefits Girls Inc. Th eir mother, Sue Sgro, has taped a a square piece of paper to a kitchen cabinet. It contains 72 boxes — the number of shirts they need to sell to make a $100 donation — and each time the girls sell a shirt, the family llsts it in a box. When all are filled, the girls make a contribution to Girls Inc. They made their first donation in July. For the girls, it’s a badge of pride. “It’s not just a business we’re making,” Liz Sgro said.
The YEA, Young Entrepreneurs Academy, is a ground breaking program that transforms local middle and high school students into real, confident entrepreneurs. Through the year-long program, students in grades 6-12 generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors, and launch their very own companies. Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy today serves thousands of students in 168 communities across America.
The start of an idea
In 2013, Liz Sgro had a birthday party at Jumpin Fun Sports in Sarasota. She wanted a glow theme, so the family headed to the craft store for neon-colored T-shirts to give out as party favors. The Sgros wrote on the T-shirts with a thick, black Sharpie marker. On the front: “Club Neon.” On the back: “You Glow Girl.” The shirts were a hit, and the girls began wearing them to school. A friend saw the shirt and yelled through the hallway, “You glow girl!” and the expression stuck.