Courtesy of Sam Hofer and by Maddie Cooke
Students get down to Business
April 8, 2019
Chris McIsaac teaches the visual merchandising class at Tigard and has found a few tips and tricks to help students businesses succeed.
“Get advice and talk to the people who have done it before,” McIsaac said. “That’s huge; always be open to suggestions.”
Even after creating the perfect business plan, things may not go the way it was expected and that’s okay.
Senior Nyah Gray, owner of Gray and Hound, understands this struggle. However, despite these roadblocks, Gray encourages those seeking to start their own business to push through the difficulties, and to keep going.
“Even if it doesn’t seem like it’ll work out, keep on going and push through. No matter if it seems like if it’ll fail or not, eventually people will catch on and find your stuff.” Gray said.
“Be open to whatever comes your way; be flexible, be ready to roll with the punches.” McIsaac said.
Although it may seem that starting a business in high school would come with mostly disadvantages, one overarching advantage students have is 3 months off in a year; also known as summer break.
“Use your free time to your advantage.” McIsaac said. “ You have 3 months that you can be doing something awesome and productive and worthwhile verses just sitting at home doing nothing all summer.”
While Sam Hofer, a junior, was creating his own company, Silky Games, he learned a few tips along the way that he found useful and would be handy for anyone interested in starting their own business.
“Become an insider in whatever you’re doing; whatever you’re doing you want to be the best at,” Hofer said. “Become a pro, absorb everything you are doing and just learn everything there is.”
Along with learning everything about the business you’re curious in going into, make sure that whatever business you chose, it’s something that you like to do.
“[Chose something] you enjoy doing and interested in; you’re not going to want to do something that could be annoying after awhile,” Hofer said.
Hofer codes for all
Not many students get to start their own business in high school; most assume it’s an unrealistic goal. Some may believe they don’t have the time, or they’re too young to begin their dreams of starting a business.
Worries like these can be put to rest by Tigard High junior , Sam Hofer. Hofer began coding video games on Roblox, an online multiplayer game creation platform, at the age of 12 for him and his friends to play.
“I learned you could make your own [games] and program them and I got into it,” Hofer said. “The fact I can make whatever game I wanted was kinda cool.”
The games Hofer published soon got the attention of other players on the site and his newly made coding business, Silky Games, took off.
“I learned to make better games and started making money off of them by selling stuff in the games,” Hofer said.
Hofer has created over 10 games since then. Two of his games, “Destruction Simulator” and “Lucky Block Battlegrounds,” have grown incredibly popular with over 300 million play sessions combined.
Roblox holds an annual award ceremony called the Bloxy Awards for developers on their site. This year, “Destruction Simulator” won the award of “Favorite Breakout Game” for his game becoming extremely popular in a short window of time.
With such a large platform of players, Hofer has gained extra help to be able to create new games.
“For a while I worked for myself but recently I’ve been hiring out some people to work on different aspects like artwork and stuff like that,” Hofer said.
During the school year, Hofer focuses on maintaining his games and keeping them updated, while he leaves creating new video games for the summer. Recently, Hofer has added some new aspects to his games for the winter holidays which included upgrade boosts or exclusive item packs along with other components sold in his game shops.
“In the beginning of January, I had a partnership with a Microsoft event where I had to update the game with some sale stuff for the holiday,” Hofer said. “It was pretty insane and a great opportunity; [Microsoft] had my game featured on the front page of their store.”
Even though Hofer has created a successful company, not everyone he runs into takes him and his business seriously due to the fact that he is still in high school.
“They think that it’s just some sort of hobby on the side because of my age,” Hofer said. “It’s definitely harder [to own a business] in that regard.”
Throughout the ups and downs of developing games and running his own business, Hofer’s parents have always been there to support him.
“[My parents] are always there for me, listening to what I have to say and helping me out if I need someone to talk to, or brainstorm [with],” Hofer said.
Something that Hofer will always remember and carry with him is his dad’s encouragement. “He helped me to realize I’m not gonna get it all overnight and I have to start somewhere and keep going,” Hofer said.
Gray’s doggone good
Inspiration can come from anywhere—for senior Nyah Gray, it came from simple walking her neighbor’s dog around the block. Her neighbor asked if she would be willing to walk her dog, and Gray agreed to. After returning from the walk, she became inspired to start browsing different dog accessories but, since she didn’t have a dog of her own, her mom wouldn’t allow her.
“I wanted to buy [the accessories] but my mom said no because it’s not my dog, so I thought I would make them for her,” Gray said. “I started posting them, people started liking them, and then it kind of grew from there.”
And so, Gray started her business, “Gray and Hound.” Fast forward to today, and she makes a living making and selling leather bound dog collars and leashes, along with an assortment of other accessories and add ons. She has sold to 2,201 customers on Etsy, with sales exceeding 4,300.
Since starting in 2013, her business has gone through many changes, most notably the materials she uses. In the beginning she used Paracord, to make the collars, a type of nylon rope used most typically used with parachute strings. That worked in the beginning, however it proved to be cumbersome after a while.
“I started off with Paracord, which is a military cord and I kind of braided them together,” Gray said. “But then I hated doing that so I switched to fabric and taught myself how to sew and kind of went from there.”
Using social media, Gray has been able to grow her business significantly since its start in 2013. In the beginning, she had to do everything herself- make her own collars and accessories, package them herself, ship them herself, and everything in between.
“It was hard for a while in middle school… I’d be up until 3 in the morning sewing, then I would have homework that was due, and I would focus on the business instead of the homework.” Gray said.
Now, due to the success of her business, she’s been able to get some help. Instead of making everything herself, she has been able to outsource her production. That way, all she has to do is ship out her products. Working smarter, along with the increasing workload of high school, has helped Gray and her business tremendously.
After high school, Gray plans on continuing her passion and growing her business. She hopes to grow it to the point where she doesn’t have to ship in general, and she can work on being more hands-off. This will be especially beneficial when college gets up and running- Gray has proven she can run her business through middle and high school, and she plans to do the same in college. The money she earns can support her through college, along with building upon the solid foundation she has now.
Gray’s business has grown significantly since it’s start, and her passion is evident in all she does. Follow your passion, and check out Gray and Hound on Etsy.