The/Studio: Introduce yourself. Tell our readers a little bit about who you are!
Jewel: Hello I’m Jewel Burleson, the CEO and founder of Custom Dance Jewels. I’m 14 years old and in the 9th grade. I’ve been dancing ballet since I was 4 and now I dance about 25 hours every week. This year I enrolled in online public school through iUniversity Prep, Grapevine Colleyville ISD’s online school in Texas to give me more time so I could dance during the day. Joining online school has also given me the opportunity of joining the Young Entrepreneur Academy (YEA! Program) hosted by The Grapevine Chamber of Commerce. This program has helped me to grow my business greatly and to earn investments. In March of 2015, young entrepreneurs in this program presented our 6 minute speeches to a group of investors who generously granted us money. In addition to the money, one of the businesses was chosen to move on to the next round of competition in Phoenix, Arizona. My business was the business chosen to advance to the 2015 Saunders Scholars Bright Ideas National Scholarship Competition Western Regional in May of 2015.
The/Studio: That is very exciting! Congratulations! What does your business do?
Jewel: Custom Dance Jewels creates personalized pointe shoe bags to help air out expensive dancing shoes. When I was first put en pointe, I learned the importance of taking care of your shoes since they were very expensive. The best way to take care of these shoes is to air them out and dry the sweat so the canvas and other materials don’t break down as quickly. Our stylish mesh bags provide a fun and unique way to store and air out pricey pointe shoes. This saves parents money while allowing girls to express their style.
The/Studio: What a great concept! What have you learned since starting Custom Dance Jewels?
Jewel: I have learned so much since I started my business in May of 2014. I’d say the most important thing that I have learned is that there is always something more that I can do to improve my business. There’s always something that I can improve on to help grow further. Once I feel like I’ve finished a task there is always another one waiting to be done.
The/Studio: What about your business are you most proud of?
Jewel: I am most proud of how quickly we have grown. Within the first year we already sell internationally and have sold bags in England, Canada, and even Germany. This just astonishes me to know that all over the world people are dancing and finding our small business.
The/Studio: That is fantastic! What are some of the greatest challenges you face with your business?
Jewel: One of the most difficult challenges is making our product quickly. Since we are hand making each bag in our house it tends to take some time. While we can produce many bags a day, it is very time consuming. If we do decide to sell our bags in dance stores we will be outsourcing to produce more bags quickly. Another challenge I personally face is finding time for school, dance, and my business.
The/Studio: You should be really proud of yourself. You are doing it all! Where do you see your business in 10 years?
Jewel: In 10 years I will hopefully be going to business school to pursue my MBA. While I am away at college, I still wish to continue running my business. I hope that at this point my business will be developed enough that I won’t have to be working on it on a day to day basis. I want to see my business grow leaps and bounds and become one of the most successful dance brands. I see Custom Dance Jewels expanding to carry other products for dancers. Most importantly I would like to see our business with every dancer. It would be my dream to see a bunch of young ballerinas carrying our personalized bags.
The/Studio: What type of legacy do you want to leave?
Jewel: I want to influence young teens like myself to start a business and pursue their dreams. As my business continues to grow, my goal is to set up a scholarship to help fund young ballerinas and to help them pursue their dream while promoting the arts.
The/Studio: What a wonderful way to give back. What is the story behind the custom product that you produced with The/Studio?
Jewel: For my pointe shoe bags I wanted a way to incorporate my logo onto each bag. A popular leotard company attaches woven labels with their logos on the sides of each leotard. I wanted to take a similar idea to this and add it to my product. Someway that everyone could clearly identify my bags from others. The woven labels I purchased from The/Studio are the perfect way to do this.
The/Studio: Do you have any upcoming events that our community members can attend?
Jewel: On May 2nd, at the Grapevine Mills Mall in Texas we will be a part of a trade show hosted by the Young Entrepreneur Academy in the food court from 11:30-1:00. At this trade show we will be selling all kinds of bags and will be doing a giveaway for a free custom pointe shoe bag. On May 14-15th, in Phoenix, Arizona I will be presenting my business for the next round of the Young Entrepreneur Academy competition.
The/Studio: We wish you much success, Jewel! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! You demonstrate that you can follow your dreams at any age!