Twentysomethings Savannah and Jenny aren’t your typical girls. Their mantra—“make it happen”—is true in theory and practice. The pair went from best friends to business partners when they spearheaded the lifestyle blog and design company, MaieDae.
In May 2010, Savannah and Jenny graduated from Berry College together. As they both settled into a full-time corporate jobs, they struggled with feeling stagnant creatively.
“I just want to do something that matters,” Savannah told her husband one day.
“You just need to do it,” he advised her. Those simple words became the launching point for the humble beginnings of MaieDae.
“We spent a lot of time dreaming, and finally said, ‘Lets just do it!’” Jenny explained.
Savannah and Jenny started by selling handmade items on Etsy, which consisted of jewelry, hair accessories and home goods that they created on nights and weekends in between their full-time jobs.
“Creating handmades ignited something in me,” Savannah said. “We started to dream.”
At first, their work was less of a business and more of a hobby. There was no name, no branding, and just the beginnings of their collaborative blog.
“We were just doing what we knew at the time,” Jenny said.
As their handmades business grew, Savannah and Jenny realized that what they loved most about their business was connecting with other artists, bloggers and small business owners at shows and craft fairs. They began to dread orders coming in, but always got excited at the thought of talking with people.
At the start of their business, Savannah and Jenny had set long-term goals to be able to work from home and start their own families someday, but they realized that constantly making products and filling orders didn’t fit into those goals. As they reevaluated what MaieDae was and where it was going, they decided to drop the handmades business and focus on the parts of MaieDae they loved: their individual blogs and graphic design for other bloggers/small business owners.
As with most startups, it became difficult for Savannah and Jenny to maintain their full-time jobs while managing their growing small business. While they had originally planned to go full-time with MaieDae in 2014, it soon became apparent that the leap could be taken sooner. By Christmas of 2012, MaieDae was growing so consistently that Savannah was able to make the transition to full-time at MaieDae, and Jenny shortly thereafter in April 2013.
Today, all of their future plans are coming to fruition right before their eyes. Savannah is expecting her first child in February 2014, and Jenny is due in the spring. They are grateful to be able to share their pregnancy journeys with all of MaieDae’s followers.
“The community is so encouraging,” Savannah said with a smile. “It is so exciting to be able to share, although I am trying to figure out what types of boundaries and balance will be needed when the baby arrives.”
Beyond the blog aspect of MaieDae, they also have a booming design business, where they create everything from corporate logos to blog designs. They strike a great balance as Jenny has taught herself HTML code, and Savannah enjoys graphic design. Their love of connecting with people has seamlessly been incorporated into business strategy. They’ve recently launched events and workshops like the MaieDaie Mixer and The Brand Market Workshops. They also attend three or four conferences a year, networking and gaining creative inspiration from panels, keynotes speakers and fellow bloggers.
As lifestyle blogger, the MaieDae ladies were full of good advise for fellow twentysomethings.
“It really helps to have someone be a cheerleader for you,” Jenny advised. “I have Savannah, and we push each other along and encourage one another in our different strengths.”
“Take time for personal development,” Savannah added. “Create a guide for yourself to make decisions. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I and what do I love?’”
Every twentysomething has a great idea brewing inside him or her. But for whatever reason, whether it’s lack of time, money, or ambition, these ideas don’t always come to fruition. However, 24-year-old Luke has great insight on how to make your thought become a reality.
Luke describes himself as “enormously passionate about actualizing good ideas.” After founding more than four thriving start-ups, it’s fair to say Luke is really good at just that – making ideas become a reality.
Luke was about to enter his twenties when his childhood love for space turned into something much greater. He came across an old NASA paper that spoke about building a base on the moon by using plastic bags filled with moon dust because that was a cheap and easy way. “Is there a way to use this same idea in other environments that are resource constrained?” Luke wondered. He thought immediately about disaster relief locations and areas with limited resources that were lacking efficient supply chains for building small housing structures.
At 19, Luke convinced his parents to let him build a prototype in their backyard. After realizing his idea worked and it would be a cost-efficient process to replicate in other parts of the world, EarthBag was born.
The earthquake in Haiti happened shortly thereafter and Earthbag received sponsorship from the Clinton Global Initiative, Delta Social Innovation Fund, and Habitat for Humanity – raising $200,000 collectively. In 2012, Luke and his team spent a lot of time building prototypes in Haiti. Their last build had cut costs by 40% – an incredible result for small housing in developing countries.
After college graduation, Luke attended Imperial College London as a Marshall Scholar and compled an MSc in Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Management. While in London, he was inspired to start another company. “I was traveling so much and constantly having issues with my electronics dying,” Luke explained. Out of his frustration with the lack of options available for recharging batteries on-the-go, emerged his idea for a wearable battery company, which integrates batteries into our daily lives by utilizing places that were once wasted space. Wear Watt will provide power to people on the go and in turn, will raise awareness and investment for rural electrification projects throughout the world, a cause that Luke is very passionate about.
Luke’s team launched on Kickstarter a couple months ago with their first product called Outpost, a tablet sleeve with a built-in battery pack that can charge any of your electronics. They are working on a partnership with the UN Foundation to create a joint campaign around energy poverty issues. “We see electricity as the fundamental good that advances technology and advances society,” Luke said. “There are 1.5 billion people today in the world who don’t have access to electricity, and we want to create a product that’s targeting the very top end of the market to funnel electricity back into the bottom end of the market.”
While working to launch Wear Watt, Luke simultaneously started another energy software company. In the seventeen states in the United States where energy is deregulated, one shops for energy like shopping for a cable provider. This can be difficult if one does not know where to look, so Luke and his team built a Kayak-like platform for electricity shopping. WattBuy has launched in Pennsylvania, and almost immediately afterwards, had an offer to be bought out. Luke and his team are considering the offer because they would be able to expand to other states with deregulated energy markets, but are still weighing their options.
Luke’s advice to twentysomethings who want to launch an idea is, “Don’t let other people tell you no. It has far less to do with initial intelligence or the strength of an idea, but it has pretty much everything to do with taking that first step and committing 100% to something.”
In our twenties, we realize the cost of basic life, and, sometimes, it’s a rude awakening. Mom and Dad aren’t buying the paper towels and toilet paper anymore, and we realize that life is…expensive. But we also become grateful for having the opportunity to have our basic needs met, especially since so many people around the world don’t have the same luxury. Developing countries are filled with “lack” – lack of water, sustainable food systems, and adequate resources to provide for everyone. Although monthly bills can be a stressor, our twenties are a time when we start to realize just how lucky we truly are.
This attitude of gratitude pushes many twentysomethings towards giving back to others. Many of us find our calling to help those in need with a cause we find near and dear to our hearts, whether it be hunger, poverty, child welfare, etc. Trevor, 23, is one of those twentysomethings and he decided to improve the education of not only those in his community, but for people around the world.
Two years ago, Trevor started TeachTwice, a social venture that educates children and their communities through stories and the exchange of culture. The concept is simple – a single book, written by authors from a developing country, provides parents in the global marketplace stories to read to their children, and gives financial support to schools in the country where the book originated. “I really believe education drives the economy which drives development,” Trevor says.
With a team of like-minded student volunteers, Trevor began TeachTwice with the mission of improving education systems in developing countries and exposing U.S. students to different cultures. They have already published two books, from Uganda and South Africa. And they hope to be a model to other nonprofits worldwide.
Through his work with TeachTwice, Trevor hopes to demonstrate to other organizations how to be more business savvy and sustainable. He stands behind the belief that even when TeachTwice is not making a lot of money, they are still accomplishing great things with their business model by employing writers and illustrators who are making an impact on the industry, economy, and education of their country.
Trevor and the team have recently realized the importance of distribution channels in order to reach as many markets as possible. They are currently selling books domestically and using any profit to integrate the books into the education systems of the originating countries. Right now, they are exploring the many ways to sell books in America, despite a dying publishing industry, through online book space like Amazon to physical space like local bookstores, schools, and libraries.
And their hard work is paying off. TeachTwice has been featured on the local news, they’ve signed a significant contract for distribution, and have formed a partnership with Nashville’s Public Library system.
Since graduating in 2012, Trevor, looking for not only a steady income but also a way to continue doing what he cared about, turned down a consulting job for a part-time opportunity to work with the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. This job allowed him to work with TeachTwice as much as he needed. The Center, knowing Trevor, “really understood TeachTwice and supported it,” he explained, and they let him work as many or few hours as he needed to in order to continue to support his organization.
As fate would have it, Trevor’s work at the Vanderbilt Center led him down another career path. He realized the importance of what the Center was doing – creating drugs and making huge strides forward in medicine for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Schizophrenia. After being inspired by this work, he felt like he could add more value to the Center by giving them his marketing and business skills he gained through leading TeachTwice. Since most of the employees are researchers, they had not put the time into thinking about how to market themselves and become more business savvy. Trevor pitched himself for a new Business and Marketing position – and the Director created it for him.
One of Trevor’s favorite one-liners to give when people ask for advice is, “I think success is in constantly moving forward.” For example, there were months when nothing would happen for TeachTwice, and then ten wonderful things would happen within one week. Trevor believes that if you pursue what you’re passionate about and focus on doing what you love, things will move forward for you.