Hearing Aid Charms: 11-Year-Old Finds Business Success
By Hayleigh Scott
My name is Hayleigh Scott and I am 11 years old. I am the designer and creator of Hayleigh's Cherished Charms, a business created to make hearing aids fun and fancy and help the people who wear them feel special.
A Near Death Beginning
I was born with a hole in my diaphragm that allowed my internal stomach organs to float into my chest, displacing my heart and not allowing room for my lungs to grow. My little body endured surgeries, high frequency oxygen ventilation, 13 days on a heart-lung bypass machine and many medications. The doctors believe one of these life-saving treatments caused my hearing loss. At 18 months, I was diagnosed with a severe-to-profound hearing loss and have worn behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids ever since.
My parents were so thankful that hearing aids existed and worked so well. However, they wanted people to look at me and see me for who I truly am rather than focusing on my hearing loss. So, they made a decision that ultimately led to my business…They hid my hearing aids. They chose flesh colored hearing aid molds and styled my blond hair to cover my ears. But once I was old enough, I let them know that I had my own ideas!
From the Mouths of Babes
At age 5 I was sitting at the kitchen table in my grandparent's house drawing with my twin sister, Vienna. My mother came in and asked me what I was creating. I said I was drawing pictures of charms for my hearing aids. She listened to me explain that I wanted to make my hearing aids look fancy. I wanted them to standout and shine!
A Business is Born!
My mom and dad didn't completely understand how what I was drawing would work. But as I grew older, my designs became clearer and I was able to better explain my charms for hearing aids. We contacted a patent attorney, and I made my first presentation. The patent attorney was impressed and told me that he thought "I was onto something!" He helped us apply for a provisional patent, and then later a full patent, for my charms, tube twists and hearing aid scrunchies.
Getting to Work
When I first shared my charms with my family and friends, they just loved them. Then strangers began to compliment me and ask how they could have some too. This positive feedback inspired me to open an online store where I not only sell my hearing aid charms, but also make all of my charms into pierced earrings and clip-ons for family and friends.
Everyone in my family now works to help run my business, Hayleigh's Cherished Charms (well, everyone except my baby brother). I design and make all the charms. Vienna makes necklaces and Sarah, my younger sister, makes bracelets to go with the charms. My mom and dad help maintain the website and give me advice (that's what parents do!). Together, we paint displays for audiology offices. I really appreciate when audiologists put out the displays because I know my product is being seen by others with hearing loss.
Running My Business
After school, I check and answer my emails and fill any orders so my parents can go to the post office before it closes. I believe in getting my customers their orders just as fast as I can! My parents taught me customer service is VERY important. When I package each charm, I write a personal note to my customer. I want them to know I personally made their charm for them and that I appreciate their business. I email the customer the day the order is mailed and send almost all orders within 24 hours of the order date. Because I take good care of my customers, I now get many repeat orders. In addition, many new customers tell me they heard about me and my website from one of my current customers or audiologists.
Keeping Fresh and Expanding
I update the website frequently. I am constantly checking my supplies to be sure that I have everything listed on the website, and the materials to make new designs. To expand the business, I write to three-to-four websites, blogs or forums to see if they are interested in doing business. I have attended audiological conferences, am creating a distribution network throughout the country with audiologists, have been approached by two catalogs and am just now testing Google advertising. Every week my business grows and it is so much fun to come home from school and see orders from my website. It's like Christmas everyday!
Over the weekends, I research jewelry supply companies. I am really working hard to make quality products for a very reasonable price. It is important to me that as many children and adults that want hearing aid charms are able to get them without cost being a factor. I also think it is important to give back. Ten percent of every sale goes to hearing research and to schools for the deaf and hard of hearing.
The Best Part
I'm often asked what the best part of running a business is and what is the most rewarding. One reward is being able to be really creative. I love looking over a table full of beads and mixing and matching them until I find just the right combination for a charm set.
The best part of my business is hearing from the customers. I began a page of photos of customers wearing their charms. It is so wonderful to see their happy faces and to hear their stories. It makes me happy to see other boys and girls, and men and women,decorating their hearing aids with pride, making them stand out and shine. It makes me feel good to know that a little bit of their joy came from my hard work. I also like it when moms buy a matching set of earrings with their daughter's hearing aid charms. That's what my mom and aunt did with me, and it created a special connection between us.
I have had a few opportunities to speak at conferences, and I really enjoyed it. I would really love to inspire children of all abilities to expand their dreams and reach for new heights by speaking more and by opening my own store.
There are so many business lessons I have learned through success and many more from failure; but most importantly I have learned something about myself and people. I have learned to focus on my strengths and to look at people and see all of them. Every person is unique and special. Celebrate what makes you, you!
Hayleigh Scott is an 11-year-old entrepreneur from Hollis,N.H., and the recipient of the Oticon 2010 Focus on People Student Award. To learn more about Hayleigh's Cherished Charms, visit HayleighsCherishedCharms.com.