Local ‘teenpreneur’ scores national recognition
20th August 2012 · 0 Comments
By Kelly Parker
Many Isadore Newman students exhaled as the first day of the new school year came to an end Thursday, August 16. But that day was far from over for teen jewelry designer, Bridgeja’ Baker.
Later that evening, Baker, 14, owner of Creative Jewelry by Bridgeja’, was honored at the SCORE Foundation’s annual award ceremony for her unique vision, innovation and achievement. The young entrepreneur has been chosen as this year’s recipient for the Outstanding Minority-Owned Small Business award given by The SCORE Foundation; sponsored by AT&T.“She is the future of America,” SCORE CEO Ken Yancey says.’Bridgeja’ founded her business before she was a teenager, and has been a success because of her work ethic and her commitment to her vision,” Yancey adds, “It is important for us to recognize those outstanding minority-owned small businesses, like Creative Jewelry by Bridgeja’, that embody these best qualities of success in small business.”
Baker turned an ‘accidental’ hobby into a successful custom accessory business; after noticing a bead store next to her orthodontist office, nearly five years ago. She signed up for handmade jewelry classes and soon after, began designing her own pieces, using pearls, silver, and Swarovski crystals. At the age of 10, she began making custom jewelry pieces for weddings, and sororities, showcasing items at area arts festivals, and soon after online. Baker’s very first show earned her a little over a thousand dollars.
Her work has placed her in the company of some of the country’s most noted entrepreneurs; with a place as a recurring vendor at the Essence Marketplace during the Essence Festival weekend.
Baker has been recognized by Black Enterprise, Delta Sigma Theta and The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; and featured in such publications as Gambit, Scholastic News, CityBusiness and the Los Angeles Sentinel.
“My mom did some research on different organizations that can help entrepreneurs develop their businesses and grow, and she e-mailed SCORE; from there, Veronica Johnson became my mentor; helping us with different things with the business.” Baker told The Louisiana Weekly. “She was the person who nominated me for the award. I am very excited.”
“Our clients and supporters inspire other small businesses as they proceed on their path to success,” the SCORE Foundation President Mark Dobosz says. “SCORE is honored to celebrate the people and businesses that fuel our economic prosperity and social progress.”
The 10th-grader has learned to balance academics and extracurricular activities, along with her jewelry business, thanks to the support from her parents.
“She’s is active in volleyball and continues taking up guitar. With the business, she’s very, very active,” says mom, Bridgette Baker. “We’ve got to make it work—you’ve got to support your kids. We do what we need to do to make it happen.”
Some of Bridgeja’s pieces are also sold at the Community Book Center, as well as her high school’s book store (The Newman Spirit Store).
“I know school is always first; my parents keep me grounded,” Bridgeja’ Baker adds. “I may have to sacrifice every now and then, but it’s not really a problem. I enjoy all that I do.”
“The SCORE Awards celebrates and honors successful and innovative entrepreneurs who inspire us all and the small business advocates who support entrepreneurship in America,” Yancey says. “As the economy works to recover from recession, these small business successes represent America’s success through innovation and job growth.”
“I’ve definitely have grown as a designer and I have new products-cufflinks, rings, and bangle bracelets-bigger pieces,” Baker says. She still educates herself on different stones that can be used to create pieces.
Entrepreneurship has taught Baker the importance of managing finances as well. “I’ve also begun to invest my money,” she adds.
The teen’s parents, Bridgette and Thomas Baker have also stressed the importance of philanthropy. Bridgeda’ has continuously given back to various community organizations, including The Louisiana Breast Cancer Task Force, the Louisiana SPCA, Children’s Hospital and Unity of Greater New Orleans.
“I’ve always donated to charities; you can’t be stingy. When much is given, much is required,” Baker says. “You have to remember to give back.”
Though she’s pretty much her own boss, Baker still has plans to attend Xavier University and study pharmacy.
“I still want to open my own pharmacy someday and be able to sell my jewelry in my drug store,” she told The Louisiana Weekly. “I’d like to see my jewelry sold nationwide.”
To see more of Bridgeja’ Bakers creations, visit www.creativejewelrybybridgeja.com.
SCORE, mentors to America’s small business, serves over 350,000 clients annually. With a strong network of more than 13,000 volunteers with a wide variety of expertise from 364 chapters nationwide, volunteers provide entrepreneurs and small business owners’ free advice and low-cost local workshops. For details, go to www.score.org.
This article was originally published in the August 20, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper