by Molly Brooks
Brenna Bardzilowski, 17 BMB Swimwear
Working on grandma’s old sewing machine, Brenna Bardzilowski started her business synching old bathing suits at $2 each for close friends. Working on a new machine received for Christmas,
Bardzilowski has designed a variety of four bottoms and six tops and is still expanding her offerings. The self-taught teenager has sold over 300 bathing suit pieces and has had both local and international orders. And after only a year in business has acquired multiple repeat customers.
Bardzilowski says she decided to start BMB Swimwear because she could never find a perfect fitting swimsuit in stores. Every suit she makes is a custom order and she aims to create suits for regular girls. Her designs range in modesty, making sure there is something for every customer.
Still a high schooler, Bardzilowski balances filling orders from her Etsy shop with a full AP class schedule. She even finds time to participate in her school’s musical offering. Bardzilowski says she has always wanted to be her own boss. She is driven, and plans to continue to grow her business even as she moves on to college next year.
Danielle & Hillary Mellem, 20 & 23 Our Spare Change
Danielle and Hillary Mellem are complete opposites, but make the perfect pair of business partners. Danielle, the younger sister, is the artist. She designs and creates the coin jewelry, while Hillary is all business, doing the marketing and making sure the company runs smoothly.
The sisters came up with the idea to take spare change and turn it into custom necklaces one afternoon during a road trip. They let customers pick the type of coin, length of necklace and words to be stamped on it. They first began this endeavor to help fund a summer mission trip, and even as their business continues to grow they take summers off to give back and connect with their faith.
“More than anything, our faith is what is most important to my sister and me,” said Hillary. “God has helped us in forming this idea and the day we stop thanking Him for it, is the day we shut down.”
With each order that the Mellem sisters take, they ask if you’d like to share the story behind the custom necklace. Hillary said that almost everyone chooses to share his or her story. On the Our Spare Change website, Hillary hosts a blog that publishes these stories for everyone to read.
As the business has grown, the sisters have been able to hire a photography intern and are looking to expand into making bangles and rings. They also want to figure out a way to better incorporate the stories they are learning along the way.
Madison Chambers, 21 VLA
A tomboy at heart, no one would have guessed that Madison Chambers would dive head first into the fashion world. Creative and passionate for making art, Chambers found that fashion was exactly what she wanted to do.
“Fashion is just another medium for creativity,” said Chambers. “It’s a way to express yourself every day … it’s wearable art.”
Co-founder and Creative Director of VLA, a designer hat company, Chambers focused on creating a high quality product that a younger demographic could afford.
“I design as if I’m the customer,” said Chambers. “I wanted to make something that I know I would want to wear.”
The brand is minimalistic, sporting only a solid black cap, but Chambers wanted to create something that could fit into everyone’s lifestyle. She said fashion shouldn’t be something people have to force, and the VLA hat is something that can pull together anyone’s outfit.
Creating something so simple can be a large risk in fashion, but Chambers doesn’t seem to worry too much about that. As the hat is in production, she has been using social media to create hype around her product and interest is definitely present.
Ultimately, Chambers wants to use some of her profits to give back to the local art community. She feels it’s something that gets overlooked in communities and thinks all the sectors in the creative industry should support each other.
Olivia Engelsman, 23, Olivia Jane Artistry
As the New Year begins, Olivia Engelsman has decided to commit 100% to her beauty and photography business and leave her part-time job as a hairdresser. She wants to take Olivia Jane Artistry to the next level and is determined to do so by continually educating herself about new beauty and photography trends.
Engelsman has a continually growing clientele, and is very happy with the progress of Olivia Jane Artistry. Working a lot of weddings, she is a one-stop shop for brides. She does everything from styling the bride to shooting the wedding photos. She also does hair and makeup for photo shoots, clothing websites and catalogs. Engelsman’s real passion, however, is in special effects and costume makeup.
“It doesn’t feel like a job to me if I can make someone look like a monster every day,” said Engelsman. “I love it.”
For the month of October, she created 31 different costume looks and shared them on social media. It’s ideas like these that are helping Engelsman market herself in such a tough industry. She also recognizes the importance of customer relations in her field, always puts her clients’ needs and wants first, and comes to her jobs prepared for anything.
“A lot of people are camera shy, so I try to keep it friendly and light,” said Engelsman. “It’s my job to make them feel comfortable in their own skin and confident that the work is going to turn out great.”