PHOENIX — If they don't make what we want anywhere, why can't we make it ourselves, a pair of sisters wondered.
And so they founded Sweet Dream Girlz, proving that with old-fashioned ingenuity and new technology, there is nothing to stop kids from starting their own businesses.
Started in 2010 by a tween and her teenage sister, the Phoenix enterprise has already sold about $25,000 worth of skin, hair and facial-care products, such as Oo-la-la shampoos and conditioners, Ta-Da facial products and other items with such scents as chocolate-chip cookies, pink sugar and iced lemon cookie.
Why the food flavors? Because these sisters have already grasped one of the first lessons of retailing: know your market.
"Lots of kids like stuff that has to do with candy and desserts and stuff like that. And so we decided we should have different stuff like that. Who would know that something is better for kids than other kids?" said Halle Holmes, 11.
She and sister Brea Holmes, 18, have a website. About a dozen and a half stores in several states, especially the South, offer their products. Their mother, Lisa Holmes, is working on getting the products offered soon at the Girly Girlz store in Scottsdale.
The young entrepreneurs also have a Los Angeles-based agent trying to get them into more stores here and abroad and are also getting business advice from Skysong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. They expect to get a plug in the February-March issue of Girls Life magazine. They even have a five-year business plan.
They came up with the idea while living in St. Louis because of dual disappointments: They couldn't find any stores that carried fun skin-care products for a spa party they were having, and they couldn't find anybody washes, lotions or other products for Halle's sensitive skin that wouldn't make her break out into a rash.
So while sitting in the backseat of her mother's car on the way home from a store, Halle turned to her sister and said they should start making their own products, starting with lotions and bath and shower gels that they had been unable to find at the stores. Later, they branched out into hair and facial items.
The sisters, along with their dad, James, a mining engineer, and mother, a personnel executive director for an insurance company, moved in May to Phoenix. Lisa is also an entrepreneur and sells her Honey Clothing for plus-size women online at www.honeybeeclothing.com.
Brea, who wants to study clothing and costume design, is starting at Woodbury University-Burbank in California this year.
While children and teenagers have started businesses before, Halle and Brea are members of the Internet generation, with unlimited resources at their fingertips and the ability to create more sophisticated businesses. Halle also has insider knowledge of the tween market of 8- to 12-year-olds.
"The sky's the limit," Halle said.
Most people don't become entrepreneurs because they let their doubts get in the way, said Halle, who will be 12 on Feb. 12.
"They have a dream of (having a product) that might go international, but they think they are not going to make it like everybody else. So they forget about it. And when someone else creates something that they thought of, they keep on thinking, 'I should have done this and maybe my future would be better if I did that,' "she said.
Jessica Lee, a Los Angeles-based products promoter who is promoting the Sweet Dreams Girlz line, said in her 20 years of business, she has never worked with such a young group. Lisa, the mother, said she has not come across another skin-care line being sold by such young people.
Stories of such young entrepreneurs are cropping up more, Lee said.
There is the case of Hart Main, a Marysville, Ohio, 14-year-old who got tired of girly-smelling candles and came out in late 2010 with ManCans candles with scents such as New York Style Pizza, Coffee, Bacon, Sawdust, Grandpa's Pipe and Fresh Cut Grass. He makes them in his parents' kitchen when he's not in school.
"We do live in a world where kids are smart," Lee said. "They get it, and they have access to a lot of information. They are impressionable, and they are passionate, and they have a lot of time that adults don't have. I think you are going to see more of this."
The first thing the Holmes sisters did was get on the computer and research possible names and ideas for labels.
"We decided to have something that separates us from other people's fragrances that would sound better and would stand out for somebody as to why they should buy our product," Halle said.
Her father said that she instinctively understood the concept of branding.
With help from their parents, the girls then found a manufacturer in New York to make the base lotions, moisturizers, shampoos and other items out of just natural ingredients. Using formulas given to them by that company, the girls can create small orders themselves by adding certain essential oils to get the smells they like. Larger orders are scented at a factory.
"I think it is brilliant that they have got a handle on the importance of using pure products that people can use without paraben and other things linked to cancer in women," Lee said. Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and medicines.
Lee has shown the products at gift shows in New York City and Los Angeles, and they are being sold in stores in Texas, Arkansas, California and several Southern states. She detected interest from the Japanese at a gift show and believes it's because the scents and packaging would appeal to Japanese youths.
The unincorporated Sweet Dreams Girlz business has been financed so far with about $6,000 from Mom and Dad.
"One thing we have tried to do is let them actually experience running a business. Mom and Dad can support you and direct you in the right direction. The logo, that's them. The packaging, that's them. The idea was theirs," Lisa said.
While Halle might do most of the talking, she stops short of calling herself the chief executive officer, or boss.
Lisa has tried to establish the hierarchy, without luck.
"I have never been able to tie them down because they keep saying 'No, you be the CEO. No, you be the CEO.' So I would just say that they are co-owners or something along those lines because they won't give either one of them or the other any more importance over the other."
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com