A couple of high school juniors from Billings, Montana, U.S., will be sneaking into neighborhood yards this Saturday night under the cloak of darkness to do some serious “egging.” Before you start envisioning trees draped with toilet paper and yolks dripping down windowpanes, this egging is quite innocent, and a budding business endeavor for two enterprising teens.
“It’s been a hectic few weeks,” admits Madison Martinez, a student at Senior High School in Billings who is the co-founder of Egg My Yard, a service that provides full Easter Bunny coverage of clients’ lawns, so kids wake up to hidden Easter eggs filled with goodies – and parents don’t have to scramble to tuck colored eggs under plastic slides and behind drainpipes. “We plan on egging everyone’s house from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday night and Sunday,” continues Martinez. “We are egging about 50 yards, one yard each 30 minutes.” They will also be getting help from a few assistant eggers.
“We try to make it as easy as possible for the parents,” adds Abbigail Sparks, a student at West High in Billings who runs Egg My Yard with Martinez. Customers purchase a package of either 20 or 50 eggs and awake to a lawn of hidden candy-packed eggs. The smaller package is $20 and the larger one is $40, which includes a “golden egg. “The kids wake up, and the Easter Bunny came.”
Simple, right? And a true hands-on business case study for Martinez and Sparks, who have been best friends for five years since meeting through their local theater. While they only came up with the Egg My Yard concept just over a month ago, entrepreneurship is a natural progression for both 17-year-olds, who compete in different chapters of the Business Professionals of America. What’s more, Martinez has watched her parents grow a local business, Millennium Painters, from the ground up, and Sparks has taken six business classes in high school, including accounting, marketing and introduction to business. Lately, she has been learning how to promote a business on social media.
Those classes prepared Sparks to launch Egg My Yard, and both she and Martinez have gained valuable business insight to bring back to their classrooms and competitions. “There’s much more that goes into starting a business than just a catchy name and a good idea,” says Martinez. It seems that even in a little more than a month’s time, she and Sparks have developed some sharp business acumen. The biggest lessons from their crash course in entrepreneurship are as follows:
Start-up Capital. “A lot of young entrepreneurs forget that you need a start-up fund that doesn’t typically come from your parents,” notes Martinez. “We both brought in our own savings. So far, we’ve put in about $300, which would be split down the middle at $150 each. That money has gone to buy candy, eggs and fuel.”
Communication. “We have so much else going on in our lives, says Sparks, that we have to keep in touch with each other about our customers, our product and the business.” Adds Martinez: “In the beginning, we lacked communication and we grew frustrated. It’s important that we stay friends, so we learned that the line of communication has to stay open.”
Teamwork. Martinez disagrees with people who say it’s not a good idea to go into business with friends. “That has not been our experience at all,” she says. “Our friendship has grown from this. We’ve figured out what our strongest qualities are and how we need to help each other out. When you’re trying to start a local business, you should have people from different backgrounds with different strengths come to help you create one coherent project. You need to find what each of you is good at. Academically, Abby is better at doing statistics and logistics; however, I’m better at communications and Facebook promotion. We both bring things to the table that mesh together well.”
Organization. The Egg My Yard team believes in having a solid start-up plan and a budget. “You have to get organized from the beginning. Know where your money is going and how much of a profit you’re going to make,” stresses Sparks. “We have spreadsheets and track our expenses. That has helped a lot. If a customer calls with a problem, we know where to look.”
Customers and Promotion. “From a very young age, I learned that your costumers are the backbone of your business,” says Martinez, whose interest in journalism helped her create a strong promotional message for Egg My Yard on the company’s Facebook page. “My parents preached how word of mouth is the best way to spread the word about your business, and I took that same attitude when dealing with Egg My Yard. Managing costumer service and our Facebook page taught me that without your core supporters, whether that be your customers, friends, family, or page influencers, your project would crumble quickly.”
Social Responsibility. Both Martinez and Sparks love volunteering and are finding ways for Egg My Yard to give back to the community. “We got a phone call about a week ago, which was different because most of our customers contact us online,” recalls Martinez. “The woman on the phone said she was blind with Multiple Sclerosis and had two autistic children. She said she would rather have sugar-free candy in the eggs. She explained that this would be her last Easter with the kids. We have been fundraising and putting more toward her family, and we will follow-up with her the morning of Easter. It’s very important to us that we give back.”
While Egg My Yard is Easter-focused, the business likely won’t stick to only pastel colors. Martinez and Sparks plan to build on their holiday theme, using their new business knowledge and customer base to help parents on Valentine’s Day, July 4th and even Christmas. For one, parents have expressed angst over the Elf on the Shelf, a recent tradition featuring an elf doll that secretly changes locations and activities each night leading up to Christmas. “They remember to place the elf at night, but they’re running out of ideas,” says Martinez. “They want us to put together a kit every week for stuff for the elf to do. Our youth helps adults know what’s on trend.”
Egg My Yard is a simple concept, and yet it has really gained favor with parents in and around Billings, Montana. Why do you think the business has been successful?
What lesson or message resonates most with you from this article? What will you remember most about Egg My Yard and its founders?
Are you a teen who has started a local business that has taught you a lot about entrepreneurship? Share your story here or contact KWHS at https://kwhs.wharton.upenn.edu/feedback/. We want to hear from you and possibly even feature you in our business journal!