COLUMBIA, Mo. – Hanna Taylor knows how important a “pitch competition” can be for a young entrepreneur. Taylor, who helped organize the University of Missouri Extension’s 4-H Build-a-Business Camp as part of her summer job, pitched an idea that became one of the area’s fastest-growing small businesses.
The seventh annual camp is July 13-17 on the Mizzou campus. Youth ages 12-18 hear from successful young entrepreneurs and then develop their own business ideas and try to “pitch” or sell them to professionals at the end of the camp, said Steve Henness, University of Missouri Extension state 4-H specialist.
Taylor also works with the Show Me 4-H Wares, a program for 4-H youth members to display and sell items at the Missouri State Fair.
Taylor, who starts her MBA this fall, says she “was forced to take” a small-business class as part of the requirements for an undergraduate degree at Columbia College.
Her professor was enthused when she pitched an idea for something she was already doing—building pageant props for her 2-year-old cousin.
Taylor entered pitch competitions at MU and Columbia College. She won neither.
A judge wrote in a critique that it was a nice hobby but didn’t have business potential. The all-state high school and college softball player couldn’t let the comment go.
Familiar with the pageant world, she knew pageant props are expensive and hard to find. So she gave it one last shot and in April 2014 entered the #BOOM Bounce Pitch Competition in Columbia.
She took second place in the social entrepreneurship category and earned $1,000. The day was a double win for Taylor: North Callaway High School students she had mentored won first in the high school division of the competition.
With the prize money, she rented a storage unit in Callaway County. She stores items she can repurpose and recycle. She bargain hunts daily for free items online and collects cardboard from a local business. “I’m not too proud to dumpster dive or go on those curb alerts,” she said.
Free items like old cable spools and an umbrella find new life as a tiger carousel. An old end table becomes a Lego table. A discarded baby swimming pool becomes a mermaid’s shell. Props feature moving parts, lights, rhinestones and glitter.
She developed a social media page to promote Re-Do Designs. Business tripled and now includes items for weddings, parties and other events.
While in college, she mentored young entrepreneurs through the Show Me Innovation Center in Fulton. She encourages them to pursue their hobbies with passion to create startups. “It has to start off as a passion and a hobby to become a viable business. If you can teach these young people how to do business, it will help the local economy,” she said.
Taylor hopes to return to her hometown of Auxvasse someday. She is assistant softball coach at North Callaway High School in Kingdom City and her business is there.
“Boone County has helped me grow but Callaway County has my heart,” she said.
Contact Taylor at [email protected].
For more information about the Build-a-Business Camp or Show Me 4-H Wares, contact Steve Henness at 573-884-6618 or [email protected].