A schoolgirl launched a small business and earns $34,000 a month

A 17-year-old girl used $2,000 of her savings to start a part-time job at Amazon. Now she earns an income of $34,000 per month. It all started with guinea pigs, reports CNBC.

At age 12, Bella Lyn had a problem. Her guinea pigs were disappearing.

In those days, Lin let her three guinea pigs roam her parents’ grassy, ​​fenced backyard near San Francisco. The animals “looked miserable” in their cramped, “prison-like” cage, says Lin, now 17.

A schoolgirl launched a small business and earns $34,000 a month

She assumed the first pig, Snoopy, had escaped and continued to let her guinea pigs outside—until her father saw an eagle fly off with one of the animals, she recalled. Determined to improve traditional pet cages, she began drawing designs.

Lin, a graduate of the Khan Lab School in Mountain View, California, designed several cell models and invested approximately $2,000 of her savings to launch her GuineaLoft project on Amazon in November 2022.

Last year, she sold about 11,000 cells and generated more than $410,000 in revenue—an average of about $34,000 a month.

In addition to a full academic load, extracurricular activities, and the college application process, Lyn works about 20 hours a week at GuineaLoft, she said. She is considering delaying college so she can focus on her business.

The unprofitable part-time job led to an “epiphany”

Lin told her father, a computer programmer, that she wanted to create a better cell. He had connections to the family factory in China.

After a year of prototyping, Lin was distracted by another idea: she wanted to sell sports products for girls at a lower price than the big fashion brands. She did her research, found another factory in China, contacted them and put together a business plan to sell leggings starting at $23.

This girl project called TLeggings was launched in July 2019. It generated about $300,000 in revenue in 2020, she said. It also earned Lyn a place in BizWorld, a project-based entrepreneurship program for 16- to 22-year-olds.

She completed a 12-week training program and worked with a business mentor, but failed to win the competition and cash prize at the end of the program. This was one of the few signs that TLeggings was failing: despite strong revenues, the company was never profitable. Lin struggled to keep up with her competitors.

She closed TLeggings in early 2022 and refocused on Guinea-Loft.

“I had a weird epiphany when I realized there were a lot of other companies trying to make leggings,” Lin says. “There was no innovation there, whereas, with GuineaLoft, I was able to fill a really big gap in the market.”

Between lessons and business

Lin realized that her early prototypes were promising but imperfect.

Traditional guinea pig cages are made with bars, a roof, and a canvas or plastic bottom. They are difficult to clean and often smell like excrement, Lin said.

Her early open-floor glass cages allowed for greater visibility and mobility and had two-tiered bottoms. Dirty litter could be placed in a removable plastic tray. But shipping the glass was too expensive, and her little guinea pigs’ paws were getting stuck on the floor.

Lin rearranged her schedule so that she could make cell designs in between classes at school. She stayed up late to research and virtually test products with her team of six in China—a production manager based in the factory and five full-time GuineaLoft employees.

“These six people source, produce, package, and photograph the products,” Lin says. She manages product design, pricing, and marketing for GuineaLoft. She says TLeggings taught her a lot about social media and overall business strategy.

The company eventually switched to acrylic instead of glass and made replacement bottoms from biodegradable wax-coated paper. It’s like, in Lin’s words, “airplane barf bags.”

The bottom part is easy to throw away, which is good for business. Once satisfied GuineaLoft customers run out of items, they’ll have to return to Lyn’s Amazon store to restock.

Victory in the competition

In the first batch, the factory produced 100 cells. Lyn was thrilled when three sold in the first couple of hours.

Within two weeks, all 100 GuineaLoft units were sold “without marketing,” she says. Last year, she reapplied to BizWorld and won a $10,000 investment in a competition. The money will be used to purchase accessories and new cages for various types of small pets, such as rabbits and hamsters, she said.

The company’s 25% profit from single-cell sales is immediately reinvested into marketing, audience research, and new product development, Lin said.

This means that she is not making any money for herself yet.

But while she’s applying to college, she’s also considering taking a year off after high school to visit a factory in China, learn more about manufacturing, and grow her business.

“Great customer reviews of GuineaLoft and thank you emails are energizing,” says Lin. “As someone who once placed a strong emphasis on academics, the success of my part-time job has bolstered my confidence that I can navigate life beyond high school.”

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