“From the time I was born, my parents knew two things,” the teen jewelry maven Gabrielle Jordan states at the opening of her TED talk. “I was born a Redskins fan, and I never wanted to work for anyone.”
Hailing from five generations of business owners, Jordan was virtually destined to become an entrepreneur, but no one, not even her parents, could have predicted how quickly that destiny would come to pass.
At 15-years-old, Jordan’s jewelry line, Jewelz of Jordan, and her Amazon best selling book, The Making of a Young Entrepreneur: The Kids Guide to Developing The Mind-Set for Success, have garnered national acclaim, including a salute from First Lady Michelle Obama during BET’s 2015 Black Girls Rock Awards Ceremony during which she received the M.A.D. (Making A Difference) award. Jordan is the youngest member of the Great Black Speakers Bureau, and also a recipient of McDonald’s first 365 Black Community Choice Youth Award.
But before the business, and all of the accolades, Jordan was a 7-year-old with a penchant for shiny baubles. That’s when she started teaching herself to make jewelry, cobbling many of her earliest pieces together with broken items in her mother’s jewelry box.
“I started taking the jewelry to school and people would actually buy some of my rings and bracelets,” recalls the Maryland native. “It was just natural for me to sell even though I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Jordan’s parents encouraged her to monetize her new-found hobby, and they invested in her young business. By 9, she had created Jewelz of Jordan, a sophisticated collection of necklaces, bracelets and rings hand-crafted from natural stone, Swarovski elements and freshwater pearls.
Today, she sells her jewelry on her website and at shows throughout the D.C. region, often creating one-of-a-kind commissioned pieces for a clientele of women who are much closer to her mother in age. She donates a portion of her profits from her book to her several charities.
“Things were really slow at first. Nothing was happening and I was afraid my business was going to fail,” she recalls of her first years in business. In fact, fear itself was her most significant article as a kidpreneur who was learning as she went along.
“I received a book called Who Moved My Cheese and I loved it because there was one quote that said, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Struck by the premise of fearless living, Jordan says she posted that quote on her wall and challenged herself to overcome the trepidation, and commit to growing her business.
“I tell myself I only have ten seconds to be afraid,” she says.
It’s this type of practical business advice, overcoming fear for instance, learned from real world experience that Jordan includes in her book, The Making of a Young Entrepreneur, a manuscript that began as writing competition in school.
“I really wanted to win this competition because I felt like this is a book that a lot of kids should read,” says Jordan. She ultimately did not win her school’s contest, but the decision to self-publish the book she had written was game-changing.
“Once I started selling my book along with my jewelry, that’s when I really felt like I was in business. I felt like I’m published, and I have multiple streams of income.”
Moreover, the book solidified her platform, encouraging young people to “dream big” and catapulted the young impresario onto the national stage, with invitations to speak pouring in from all over the world.
Jordan and her mother have spun that platform into a hands-on initiative to help young, aspiring entrepreneurs. Together, they created the ExCEL (excellence created through entrepreneurship and leadership) Youth Mentoring Institute, a program that provides young people with business education, and their parents, with the information needed to support their endeavors.
“There are a lot of young entrepreneurs in my generation,” she notes. “Of course you always hear people say that in my generation they’re all slackers and things like that, but if you go on Instagram and type in #YoungEntrepreneurs you will find so many young people who are doing amazing things.”
A sophomore in high school, Jordan began homeschooling about two years ago in order to make time for her expanding business and speaking frequent speaking engagements. She is not quite sure how she will balance college when the time comes– she considers becoming a gemologist– but she does have a clear-cut vision for her brand.
She plans to develop ExCEL into a national network of young mentors, “a place where young people would know this is where you go to learn how to be an entrepreneur.”
As for Jewelz of Jordan, she says that she is being careful to curb growth of her jewelry line, preferring to maintain a smaller line of high-end pieces, until she secures a manufacturer.
And if running those two enterprises aren’t enough, Jordan is also hard at work on her second book.
To learn more about Gabrielle Jordan’s work and her outreach program for kids, visit GabrielleJordanInspires.