A couple of Methow teens have been spending their spare time in the era of COVID quite entrepreneurially, by getting crafty.
For 14-year-old polymer clay artist Amelia Evans, it all started when her uncle brought her a clay figurine from Japan, and it broke. “My grandma got some clay to fix it,” Amelia says, “and she got a large pack of clay, and after the repair there was a lot left over. So we used the rest of the clay to make figurines and food.”
That was six years ago, Amelia says, and since then she has been focusing more and more on clay food pendants: noodle bowls, slices of cake, fruit pizzas, donut platters, hamburgers, bacon and eggs — all about the size of your smallest fingernail. (I speak from experience when I vouch for Amelia’s interest in all things tiny. When she was a toddler, she and my younger daughter helped me harvest potatoes. Amelia ignored the big spuds and zeroed straight in on the little guys that cling to the vine — the ones the size of raisins. She’d painstakingly collect a handful of these little marbles and after we steamed them, she’d eat them one by one with a doll spoon the size of a Q-tip.)
“People started asking me about my clay food pendants, especially during the pandemic,” says Amelia, “so I developed an Etsy site and focused my Instagram account on my clay pieces.”
Ayla Belsby, another 14-year-old rising high school freshman, has focused her Etsy and Instagram sites on her homemade products — fruit-flavored lip glosses. “There are so many lip glosses out there,” Ayla says, “so I wanted to create something different.”
Glossanne By Ayla products stand out because they are created using no animal products or animal testing, they can be custom-printed with your name, and they include a tiny charm that matches the fruit flavor of the lip gloss. Ayla’s packaging is minimal to reduce waste and avoid unnecessary plastic use. “Plastic packaging doesn’t sit well with me,” she says.
The charm portion of the business is, of course, subcontracted out to Ayla’s friend Amelia. “I didn’t want mass-produced plastic charms,” Ayla says.
Amelia says that she is learning about operating a small business from her parents, Luke and Lindsay Evans, owners of Methow Valley Builders and East 20 Pizza, respectively. “My mom has really helped me figure out how to start and grow a small business, and she taught me about labeling and describing products.”
Both girls sell their products at the Makers Market in Winthrop’s Confluence Park, as well as on their Etsy sites. To find Ayla’s lip glosses type “GlossanneByAyla” into the Etsy search bar, and to see Amelia’s tiny clay pendants enter MillieMargyClay into the Etsy search bar.
Amelia says that she has learned from the metrics provided by Etsy and, she says, “I have learned that people like dessert pendants a lot more than they like health food pendants.”
Says Ayla about what she’s learned from her small business, “You’re using all your eighth-grade math skills to understand net versus gross income and figure out price points, you’re using English class to write your descriptions and sales pitches. It just unlocks everything we’ve learned in school until now. It all makes so much sense in context.” And, she adds, showing a business acumen far beyond her years, “As a child, my overhead is very low, so I can put most of my earnings into my savings account.”