I Was Destined to Be an Entrepreneur
Since the age of 5, I knew that I was destined to be an entrepreneur. It was at that age when my family moved from Virginia to Kansas and my mom gave me the task of introducing myself to the neighbors. I was always an outgoing child, so she imagined I’d ring the doorbell, tell them my name, and then point to the house that we just moved into and then move on to the next neighbor. 5-year-old McKenzie had a different idea. Instead, I took the bucket of Rollie-polIies that I had been collecting from the front yard and decided to go door-to-door offering my new neighbors a chance to buy their very own Rollie-pollie for “only” $.25. I made just over $5, the very first time I ever made money on my own, and I never looked back.
After that, I wanted to sell anything I could get my hands on. My weekends were filled with snow cone stands in the summer and hot chocolate stands in the winter. I joined Girl Scouts just because I wanted to sell the cookies- my parents had no idea what to do with me.
“The new girl”
When I was 11, we moved to Missouri and I was once again “the new girl”. I quickly realized that I didn’t fit in with this new, upper-middle class community we had moved into. My clothes, which primarily consisted of basketball shorts and baggie T-shirt’s, stood in sharp contrast to all the other girls tight fitting Hollister and Abercrombie tees- and I wasn’t the only one that noticed. I went home after my first day and begged my mom to take me to the mall. “Just one shirt”, I had pleaded, but when we got to the stores and saw that the shirts I wanted cost anywhere between $40-$60, I saw tears well in my moms eyes. We simply couldn’t afford it, so empty-handed, we went back home.
In the morning, my mom woke me up with so much excitement that I thought it was my birthday. “McKenzie, I have an idea”, she whispered as she crawled into my bed with me, “what if we bought all of your new classmates used clothes from them when they outgrew them, and then you can have whatever you want and we can sell the rest?”
All I heard was “you can have whatever you want” and I jumped out of bed and ran around the house, my excitement unable to be contained within my body.
“Really? Please! Please please can we do it?” I yelled, still running, and my mom smiled and nodded her head. She had stayed up the entire night crunching numbers, originally trying to figure out how to afford just one single shirt but being struck with the inspiration on how, instead, she could make sure I had the clothes I wanted for the next 10 years.
My mom had never ran a business before
My mom was an accountant for a construction company. My dad was a professor at a Baptist University. We (they) had to take out a loan against our house that barely gave us enough to get started- but it was enough. For the next year, we turned our home into a warehouse. Our entire downstairs was full of piles of clothes we had asked friends to donate or we had purchased from Goodwill or found at garage sales. I learned how to tag, fold, create labels, count and enter inventory, price, and organize. By summer, we had enough inventory to open up, so we found the perfect space, decided on the name “Radical Resale”, and told every person we had ever known. As a 7th grader now, my mom figured I was just as qualified as anyone to design the store, so she gave me full creative reign. I chose to paint each wall a different vibrant, neon color and that’s what we did. Our dream was becoming a reality.
I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew it was what I had to do
Through middle and high school, I spent a lot of time in the store. We had slow seasons and busy ones- I learned how important it is that someone has a good “experience” from the second that they enter the store and that taking all the best clothes for myself was not a good business practice.
While things were going fairly well with the business, when I reached my Junior year in High school and started to consider which college I wanted to attend, I learned that our business was not enough to save my parents relationship- And I learned that divorce is expensive. When my parents sat me down and told me that none of the colleges I wanted were in our budget, I cried more than I probably ever had. I felt like my dreams were crushed- like I had just been told that I’d never get to become the person I was so excited to be- but when I locked myself in my room that night after two hours of yelling, I was struck with inspiration of my own. I would start my OWN business. I would pay for my OWN college. I didn’t know exactly how, but I knew it was what I had to do.
Over the course of that week, I put a plan together. Social media, at that time, was really becoming a big thing (think Twitter 2011). I figured that if I could create an account that could become a big enough platform, that I could sell my followers things online just like how we sold our customers things in the store. And thus, Sorry I Party was born. Originally, I treated the account more like a psychology experiment than anything. I didn’t even want to bring up the idea of selling something to my followers until the platform was established so, instead, I focused on paying attention to what kind of posts got the most attention and how I can do more of that.
OBSESSED with my mission
I spent that summer being OBSESSED with my mission, but I didn’t tell anyone else what I was doing. I kept my account anonymous- not even my best friends knew it was me that was tweeting behind the handle @PrettyPartier and, slowly but surely, I grew from 2k followers to 5k to 60k, and by the time that my senior year came around, I had gotten the account all the way up to 80,000.
I decided to sell a tank top. It was lime green, the same color as the biggest wall in Radical Resale, with magenta font that read “sorry I Party” with the “o” in the shape of a vodka bottle. My parents, although they didn’t approve, also didn’t discourage me, and slowly my mom came around and decided to help. The first day that we launched the tank, I remember laying on the floor of my mom’s villa (she had moved out by now) and listening to the sound of the notification every time someone made a purchase for HOURS. We made $1000 in our first two hours and I experienced adrenaline like I had never experienced it before.
From there, the business took off. I did partnerships with big liquor companies who would send cases of vodka to my mom’s house because they were grateful for the exposure and had no idea I was only 18. One of my customers ending up being cast on MTV’s Real World Portland and wore her tank on EVERY episode that aired that season, and my business was taken to an entirely new level.
There’s a million different ways to be successful
I made enough that summer to afford the college I was most excited about, Mizzou. However, by the time I got there, I realized that I was way more excited about my business than I was my classes. After one semester, I chose to transfer to a private university where I could get my own 2 bedroom apartment, turn one room into an inventory room/office, and see exactly how far I could take this thing.
After a while (2years), my business was still growing, but I realized that I wasn’t. I felt stuck. I wanted to level up but I didn’t have the experience or skill set I needed to get to the next stage. I decided to seek out some mentors, which is how I ended up in the industry that I am in now, working with clients to develop marketing tactics and campaigns- but my real job is to develop entrepreneurs to be able to run these campaigns on their own.
The past 5 years for me have been full of those moments like the ones I experienced growing up- of inspirations and risk and let downs and resilience and innovation. I’ve realized that, when it comes to entrepreneurship, there’s a million different ways to be successful, but that none of it truly matters if you’re not making the world a better place in the process.
My focus now is on establishing Catalyst Headquarters. I want to take my marketing company and, as we continue to expand, develop into a consultant firm instead that can double as a resource center for underprivileged teens and gifted students. I feel incredibly lucky that I found what I loved that day when I was five years old and sold my first Rollie Pollie, and I want to help other kids find that for themselves.
Through this mission, of helping as many people as possible pursue their passions and become the very best versions of themselves, I know that I can make a difference. I know I can help the world be more beautiful by helping more people discover that they are artists. I can help the world be safer, kinder, cleaner- all of it- by helping develop people who view those respective values as their personal missions. And isn’t that the point of all of this? To do everything we can to leave the world just a little bit better than it was when we got here?