Scholarships, relationships created at first ever SHE-E-O contest

Photo by Matthew Serafin /

“They’ve made a fast friendship,” said Candice Kingsley after watching her 10-year-old daughter Isabella and her business compete against tween entrepreneurs. “Where else can you meet an entrepreneur that’s your age, your speed, and get what it is (like) to go to middle school and be wearing braces.”

That message resonated throughout Tuesday night’s Future “SHE-E-O” competition in the AMU’s Monagahan Ballrooms, where the Milwaukee-based company Fashion Angels, in partnership with Marquette’s Kohler center for Entrepreneurship, showcased the business power of five nationally selected tween entrepreneurs as they vied for a grand prize of a $10,000 scholarship.

Twelve-year-old Allison Fennel of Bellevue, Wash. wowed judges with her small business, Pink and Green. She won by a narrow margin by producing inventive doll clothes made from recycled materials and charitable Shine Your Light bracelets. Half of the profits earned from the bracelets go to aid the Seattle homeless population.

“I’m just super excited,” said Fennel, who started selling her crafts after her aunt’s encouragement to take them to local bazaars. “I can’t believe this actually happened.”

Other contestants also featured environmentally friendly practices in their business models. With her zero-waste twin stores, Baker Street books and London luxuries, Isabella sells various literary crafts and winter scarves made from discarded books and Goodwill fabric through local store cosigns in Las Vegas and her online Etsy store.

“It’s really fun to be able to fold,” Isabella said. “Because both of my parents are from libraries, you’re not allowed to fold books.”

Business ideas involving clothing and accessories were common among participants, who spanned ages 9 to 12. Among the displays were Milwaukee native Tesse Okunseri‘s “hairspins” –pinwheel headbands—and Arizonan Meggie Cluey’s beaded necklaces from her Suite and Sassy business.

“I use a template,” Okunseri said. “I cut out the squares of felt…then I fold them into the appropriate shapes and then hot glue them onto a headband. I took them to my class and they really like them.”

Some girls bucked the accessory trend. Cluey’s boutique known for senior discounts and a featured a bakery filled with pastries. Californian Laila Bahmin experimented with essential oils to make her original Bad Dream Spray. The spray is applied to pillows or bedsheets to create a relaxing sleep, and is available in multiple citrus scents. It was originally conceived to help ward off her sister’s bad dreams.

“I sold one to a woman who works at a store that took my product,” Cluey said. “She mailed us saying her daughter wants more of the product.”

Whether the contestants and their families were introduced to Fashion Angels contest through its tie in, It’s My Biz products or online surfing, Fashion Angels vice president of marketing and licensing, Chris Dresselhuys, sees the event as a great success that achieves the goal of providing vital experience any businessperson needs.

“I’m the father of two tween daughters, so we want our girls to know that they control their destiny,” Dresselhuys said. “The five of them together could take over the world.”