CLEVELAND — Starting your own business can be scary, but imagine doing it at just 9 years old.
A Northeast Ohio woman had the vision to give girls the confidence that can shape their entire life, creating a program to teach a variety of business and life skills while fostering the entrepreneurial spirit.
Micayla McCarter, a 9-year-old entrepreneur and graduate of the “She Elevates” program, said she wasn’t nervous about starting her own business.
“Because I was like, this is cool!” she said.
Last June, in the midst of the pandemic, Micayla taught herself how to sew with help from YouTube, and she now makes custom face masks, drinkware, and apparel, selling them on her own website, Dovie’s Treasure Chest.
“What made me get interested in starting my business was my passion for art,” Micayla said. “And I really love going to JoAnne Fabrics and getting my materials and inspiration.”
What motivated Micayla to dive into entrepreneurship was a program she graduated from shortly before giving life to her own business.
She Elevates is a four-week summer academy for girls 8 to 14 that teaches them how to be “girl bosses.”
“There is only about 7% of women leading the Fortune 500 companies,” said DeLores Pressley, Executive Director and President of She Elevates. “So I wanted to create a program that will teach girls where they can run corporations, they can own their own businesses.”
Pressley started the program three years ago. The in-person academy was based in Canton until the pandemic hit, and things went virtual.
That change actually expanded the program’s reach beyond Northeast Ohio.
“We start off with teaching them who they are,” Pressley said. “It's all about confidence initially, and then we teach them about branding, marketing, self-esteem, public speaking, financial literacy.”
Of the 130 girls who have completed the program, Pressley said about 20% of them have gone on to create viable businesses with the help of mentors like Lisa Frank — not of schoolyard sticker fame — but a She Elevates graduate and the owner of Sol Pie Pizza in North Canton.
“I really just have a passion for helping our younger generation,” Frank said. “Seeing them step out and just really learn that they don't have to settle for a nine to five job, that there are opportunities.”
Micayla’s parents said their daughter does all the work in her business, emerging from She Elevates with priceless life lessons and unshakable confidence.
“Her confidence helped me to not be afraid,” said Micayla’s mother Akisha McCarter. “She's going to look back at 30 years old and say that was the most influential thing in my entrepreneurial pursuit in my life, was being a member of She Elevates.”
If you’re interested in signing your daughter up for the June virtual program, applications are being accepted right now.
There is a $200 fee, but the Pressley said there are scholarships, and no girl will be turned away.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.