How One Teen Turned Her Babysitting Money into a $250 Million Jewelry Business

Arizona teenager Isabella “Bella” Weems is not your average 18 year old. As the founder of the custom jewelry company Origami Owl, which she founded in 2010 at age 14, she generated $250 million in sales in 2013 alone according to the company.

“When I was 14, my dream was to have a car when I turned 16.  I went to my parents and asked them to buy me the car and the answer was ‘no.’  They encouraged me to think of ways I could earn the car on my own so I babysat, but soon realized it would take me a long time to earn enough, so starting a business was my next thought,” Weems says. 

Weems drummed up the big idea of putting charms inside lockets to create one’s own personal story and the Origami Owl custom Living Locket was born. After renting a mall kiosk at her local mall and taking on independent sales associates (known as “designers”), Weems was able to purchase a white Jeep named Alice. Today, the company boasts 60,000 designers across the country. In Miami recently to preview her latest jewelry collection, we chat up Weems on the hustle and dream of being a millionaire teen.

You started Origami Owl at age 14 with $350 of babysitting money and the simple dream to acquire a car for your 16th birthday. Fast forward to today, what does it take to be a successful businesswoman? Even though I am only 18, I think it is important to believe in yourself and it should not matter how young or old you are, going after your dreams is important. I also believe that paying it forward and giving back should be at the top of your list.   

How do you juggle school and helming an empire? I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that I have without my mom (Co-founder, Chrissy Weems) and my Origami Owl family, which includes over 400 employees who handle the business on a day-to-day basis. This summer, I am doing an emersion with the company where I plan to spend a week in each department to see how each area has grown and learn more about what each team does to contribute to the overall picture.  

You’re 18. A millionaire. Are you going to college? Yes, school always comes first. I know the importance of an education and look forward to applying what I learn in college to the Origami Owl brand and plan on studying business.  

You sing and play the piano and often do so at your work events — can we expect an album? Yes, hopefully soon.  I am working on some exciting projects at the moment, one for charity since I always feel giving back is very important.    

What is the best advice you’ve been given? Never give up! And you can do anything you put your mind to.       

What TV show can’t you miss? Dance Moms.  

What app can you not live without? Piano Tiles.  

What is your greatest indulgence? Green salsa.