When Paloma Burgos and her family traveled to France several years ago, they were awed by fields of lavender. So, when they returned home to Manhattan Beach, they decided to replace the grass in their yard with 200 drought-tolerant lavender plants.
Burgos, a sophomore at Mira Costa High School, started making soap out of the lavender last year and shortly after launched a small business. She sells the soap, lavender sachets and bouquets at area farmers markets and festivals. Her business, Lavande de la Paloma, donates all its profits towards purchasing vitamins for medical missions to under-served countries such as Uganda and the Philippines.
Last week, Burgos was awarded $1,500 and the opportunity to compete in a national contest on May 4 in Rochester, New York as part of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Burgos along with 15 other students will graduate this week from the program that’s facilitated by the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce.
“They actually taught me a lot about how to improve my business, how to write a business plan and analyze costs and revenue,” Burgos said. “They supplied me with a mentor and graphic designer to create a logo. And I was able to meet other kids who had good ideas on how to start a business.”
The program, now in its fourth year in Manhattan Beach, is open to students at any South Bay school grade 6 to 12. Students hear from local business professionals about their personal experiences and what it takes to be successful. More than 40 volunteers make the program possible locally.
With a maximum enrollment of 25 students, the program does not typically turn anyone away although they make it clear the amount of work that’s required, said Nellie Ambrose, program manager.
“Each student is interviewed,” Ambrose said. “We talk to their parents. Some teachers recommend kids. We want references from family members or people they’ve worked with, maybe a coach or an organization. Each student is looked at to see what’s the best fit to make sure they have time for it and they can handle it.”
Ambrose, who previously created a home business selling baked goods, said the whole process is inspiring to witness as students work together and really develop their creative ideas.
“We take them through a whole process on how to think creatively and come up with their own unique idea,” Ambrose said.
At the end of the course, each student participates in an event where they present their business proposals to a group of eight investors in a five minute presentation, similar to the television show Shark Tank. The reward is real-life funding, $6,000 in total.
Burgos will use the $1,500 she earned on a new printer to make custom soap boxes.
“It’s amazing what young adults can really come up with as far as ideas and creativity to be able to take an idea and nurture it and turn it into a business plan,” Sperber said.
Other projects funded this year included a “party in a bag” service that provides a bag full of Nerf guns and other accessories for a kid’s party. Another student created a custom multi-purposed furniture business. The first product is an ottoman with an animal crate built it into.
“It’s such a raw passion these young entrepreneurs have, you really don’t see too much,” Sperber said. “In addition to that, just the excitement of them presenting a whole entire plan is fun to watch. You can really see the amount of work and effort that went into it.”
For more information about Burgos’ business, visit lavandedelapaloma.com