Meet Sydney and Toni Loew: teenagers, sisters, and entrepreneurs. Residents of the Bay Area, Sydney is a sophomore in high school and Toni is in eighth grade. The sisters enjoy drawing, ballet, and – naturally – engaging with entrepreneurship. These young CEOs created Poketti, pillow characters with a pocket to store items. We sat down with Sydney, Toni, and their mother Kris to discuss their journey.
Poketti began as a school project for Sydney’s seventh grade entrepreneurship class. The project consisted of developing a business plan, a product, and pitching that idea to venture capitalists. She ended up selling the product at school and noticed that it was in high demand among her classmates. Sydney found herself really inspired by the entrepreneurial process and decided to expand her idea into a full-fledged business with the help of her parents and sister, Toni. They began by raising $20,000 on Kickstarter to help pay for a manufacturer to expand their production capabilities.
During our interview Kris emphasized the importance of the culture in and around their all-girls school in Silicon Valley. She expressed her admiration by explaining that they take typical things that would be offered to boys and extend them to girls, encouraging them to break gender stereotypes. She stated how the go-getter attitude of the area inspires the girls and “empower[s] them to think of something on their own”.
What are some advantages to being young entrepreneurs?
“It’s nice starting a business when you’re young because there are so many directions you can take your business. It has given us a lot of life skills like learning about decision-making, building confidence, and giving us patience – these lessons will be helpful in our daily lives as well as in the business world.”
Where do you see the company headed? Are there any other projects you’ve been thinking of?
Sydney and Toni’s goal is to expand their brand and create an entire Poketti culture. “We’ve made YouTube videos, put Poketti online, and have created the app Poketti Confetti. We’re also really interested in partnering with other women entrepreneurs in the industry and have collaborated with the organization Women in Toys.”
Can you tell us more about the Poketti Confetti app?
“The app is a great way to spread the word about Poketti,” Toni shares. It’s a game where Poketti characters come down on the screen and you have to catch each character in their pocket. We wanted to expand our audience and make Poketti more interactive, not only as a product.” You can download Poketti Confetti for free on the app store.
What is your favorite part of being entrepreneurs?
Sydney, in particular, has dreamed of being an entrepreneur from a young age. “When I was little I loved going to stores and I would wonder what it would be like to run a store and sell things there.” She also loves sharing her passion for entrepreneurship with others. The girls do speaker events in which they go in and talk about their business to young entrepreneur clubs in middle schools and high schools. Sydney even started a successful club at her own high school, called CEO, to inspire her classmates to become entrepreneurs. “I want to show others how fun being an entrepreneur can be!” She feels that it teaches so many important lessons that you wouldn’t learn in a classroom setting. The club currently has 10 members and is continuing to grow in popularity. The girls in the club are working on a website right now and hope to launch it in the near future.
What challenges have you faced while starting Poketti?
“This whole thing has been a giant learning experience. The main issue has been with manufacturing. Manufacturing our first series in Chicago has been difficult. Communicating and making sure that everything was exactly the way we wanted it was difficult, especially with prototypes.”
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
“Take every single mistake or every single opportunity and make it into a learning experience. Take everything that you can from every opportunity. Soak it all in. Not only will it help your business, it will also help your life. Enjoy every single part and stay positive – you’re going to get a lot of nos and that shouldn’t make you feel bad because there’s always going to be an opportunity around the corner. Always think positively.”
Who have been mentors/advisors that have influenced your journey with Poketti?
“Ty Warner has really been our role model for our business. I had to do a report on him in school and his approach to business was really inspiring,” said Sydney. She went on to further explain how he started off with nine products, small enough that he could keep a good handle on his business. He also created limited edition products that sold very well. The girls are trying to incorporate limited edition items for Poketti into their product line. They are also inspired by Webkinz and Beanie Babies, common plush toys we all know and love.
To learn more about Poketti check out their latest collection.
Contributors: Ally Massimi and Evangeline Giannopoulos