Incoming high school senior, creative agency founder, and BETA Camp alumni Jane Wu tells us about her experiences in entrepreneurship— from prototypes of sanitization products to newsletters and graphic design.
Jane is an incoming senior at Earl of March Secondary School in Ottawa, Canada who participated in BETA Camp Summer 2020. She owns a creative agency called JiSA design, runs a digital newsletter for senior minorities, and participates in her school’s First Robotics Team, all while maintaining top grades.
Since BETA Camp, she has landed many internship roles: she was a growth hacker for MANY Creators, an UI/UX designer for Advice To A Scientist (research affiliated with the University of Toronto), and an incoming intern for Digittera Interactive.
What got you interested in entrepreneurship?
My first taste in entrepreneurship came from when I was 11 years old. I launched my first business in trading organically grown celebrity fandom Instagram accounts with fans (it may have been prohibited at the time). Although I didn’t recognize that it was entrepreneurship at the time, there was an instant click of girl-boss self autonomy, a rush of adrenaline, and excitement that I felt. I unfortunately never continued after the start of middle school. I didn’t think that I had the brains or guts.
Joining BETA Camp during my junior year equipped me with the skills and mindset, but most importantly, helped me reconnect with my passion for entrepreneurship. After learning the same strategies and frameworks that Fortune 500 companies use, I loved applying them to my teams’ startup Waviolet to find a product market fit, reach out to beta users, and conduct user testing. The experience I gained from Beta camp along with the link minded friends have set me in the right direction to pursue my passions.
When did you know that you can be a teen entrepreneur?
I think teens believe that the qualification of a “real entrepreneur” is owning a million dollar business with over 100 employees like the celebrities we see on TV. However in reality, I strongly believe everyone is an entrepreneur in some way because we identify and solve problems on a daily basis. My problem solving skills come from my ability to empathize with people with different cultural backgrounds, from my 4 year experience of volunteering at senior homes.
Another hoax I used to believe is that you must be well-versed in the business field. I thought you needed years of experience, a business degree at a prestigious school, as well as thousands of dollars of funding ready. I soon realized the most important drive for successful entrepreneurs is passion, which in my case was design! Whether it’s designing birthday cards for online strangers, trading anime character drawings at school,or selling instagram accounts, these small starts were crucial in my entrepreneurial journey. In retrospect, these experiences have taught me transferable skills that I continue to build on and apply at school, internships,and most importantly shaped who I am today.
Furthermore, right now is definitely the best time to start! I realized that I have the financial support and security from my parents, as well as less risk and responsibilities compared to if I were to start later on in the future. The people I’ve reached out to for guidance have been happy to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs and connect me to their friends.Thus, I strongly encourage any teen entrepreneur to get their feet wet and start their own business!
What skills do you think are most important for teen or child entrepreneurs?
My love for art inspired my exploration in designing solutions that solve people’s problems. Hence, this hobby was the reason why I started my creative agency! Passion drives people to limitless possibilities, as it motivates them to learn endlessly and push themself outside their comfort zone. My passion for art has led me to explore UI/UX design, content marketing as well as pick up 2 coding languages along the way.
Next, it’s important for teen entrepreneurs to be confident, and flexible. Despite your age, you can definitely offer an insight or service that some adults cannot cater to. For instance, although I haven’t studied graphic design professionally or had 10+ years of experience, I offer clients a unique insight in the most trendy and approachable designs suitable for their Gen Z audience. Most clients that come to me are millennials who want to build an attractive Gen Z brand. I don’t pretend that I’m an expert in marketing or design, instead I just focus on what I knew and it was valuable to them.
However, most of the time you’ll hear more rejections than approvals. It’s not a sign of lack of skill, more so like a redirection to another target audience and trying out another sales strategy. Teen entrepreneurs should learn to be resilient and adaptable when both plan A and B don’t work, being open to exploring other strategies. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Tell us about your journey as a teen entrepreneur.
Aside from trading instagram accounts, I was heavily influenced by my older sister. At 15, I helped her pick up leads on instagram for her startup called Kuluin, an online course platform for digital creators and teachers. At the same time, I’ve invested in content marketing courses on Udacity and Bossagram Academy. From this experience, I learned how to approach and persuade people into booking an inquiry call, compiling a spreadsheet, and marketing email funnel.
Next, at Beta camp, I became a co-founder of Waviolet. We prototyped UV light boxes to help easily sanitize people’s groceries, bags, and clothes after going a day out. One mistake we made is that our team was too obsessed with the actual product. We had long and unnecessary discussions contemplating the materials and design, without actually getting user tests and researching if there was actually a product market fit.
After Beta camp, I co founded a design agency called JiSA design with another Beta camp alumni. Contrary to Waviolet, instead of charging at our normal rates, we charged 10 USD to gage the market and see how we should position ourselves.
Our hypothesis was that small brick & mortar businesses would be interested in our service, however after testing, we discovered a completely different niche of Gen Z e-commerce businesses. We then began to raise our service prices slowly to 100 usd packages, after gathering customer feedback and a solid portfolio. So far at only 300 followers, we have worked with over 30 businesses and creators.
The biggest struggle I had as a teen entrepreneur was team dynamics. My co-founder and I had different levels of commitment as we had numerous conversations about each’s expectations and roles. This was understandable as we are both full time students.
As a result, I ended up hiring a team and taking a 40% commission for every work I found for my team members, serving as the lead in business development.
What role did BETA Camp play in this journey?
From the gecko, Beta camp inspired me to be confident and adaptable to changes.
Firstly, BETA Camp’s hands-on experience is unrivaled to any other program out there online. After Waviolet’s failure, I learned from hands-on the importance of conducting user research with MVP prototypes to determine a perfect product market fit, prior to investing my time and money. From there, I learned to expect the unexpected, have confidence to put myself out there with strangers and change target audiences. Beta Camp’s framework truly covered everything that you need to know, from how to formulate good user research questions, finding and messaging your first clients, building an MVP, negotiations, etc. I still refer back to the recorded videos and sessions.
Furthermore, outside of Beta camp, the camp directors and the tight-knit community have been very supportive of my endeavors. I instantly bonded with my co founders, who are still some of my closest friends till this day. They constantly give me feedback and advice to steer me in the right direction especially when it comes to dealing with team dynamics and expectations. The alumni workshops have also helped me strengthen my resume and interview, as I managed to land a position at Many Creators, Advice to a Scientist, as well as Digitera Interactive.
What are some small business ideas for teens that you think are good places to start?
For art students like me, I recommend starting a sticker shop to raise money for a cause, or drawing product illustrations for brands (super trendy right now actually). Brands love art because they can use it on social media, emails and their website. In addition, as teens know social media better than anyone, you could also create Tiktoks and plan out social media content for a company.