RHS students become entrepreneurs

Zen Clothing, Baking by Jade, RUBY, and Inspirational Journals flourish

Mariam Hanna, Editor in Chief

One short year ago, senior Sophie Yanachik would sew clothes for herself as a hobby. Then, a worldwide pandemic struck, and life took on a new path. Here, her career in business launched as she began selling these clothes through a store she named Zen Clothing. (Go to https://zen-clothing.square.site/ or search @zen_clothing20 on Instagram to visit.)

Yanachik is one of several students at Rochester High School who have decided that it is never too early to start a business. Senior Jordan Hubbard, junior and sophomore Eden McCullough and Sam Tandy, and sophomore Jade Mclellan all are in this same boat. Each one of these young ladies have found a trade or topic she is passionate about and turned it into a business.

Yanachik sells clothes that are inspired by Chinese street wear. She sews them by hand to try to reduce fashion industry waste.

“The industry is one of the top polluting industries in the world, producing almost 13 million tons of waste each year,” she explained. “Lot of my clothes are made using upcycled or recycled materials to not only reduce my business’s impact, but also educate others on how to be mindful of their environmental impact.”

When Yanachik began sewing clothes, she did not intend to sell them. She simply planned to wear them herself as an anti-pollution and fashion measure. That quickly changed, though.

“In March, I posted a video of myself on my private story, and one of my friends swiped up and asked where I got my shirt from,” Yanachik said. “She said she really liked it and wanted to buy it. It was special because it was a shirt that I had sewn myself. That night I hopped onto the computer and started designing a website.”

Similarly, Mclellan started her baked goods business, Baking by Jade, unintentionally. She loved baking, so she would sometimes make cakes for her friends and family. Word got out, and she began taking orders. Her business has grown since then (Search @bakingbyjade on Instagram to visit).

“In July of 2017, I created an Instagram account just for sharing the things that I’ve made,” she explained. “I would get small orders from family or family friends every once in a while, but it was never a regular thing. After a couple of years, I had improved a lot, and started doing more cake orders in the summer of 2020.”

Hubbard drew inspiration for her business from what helped her the most through tough times- expressing her thoughts and emotions through journaling. She now has been selling journals, clothes, masks, and mugs for over three months though her store called Inspirational Journals (Go to https://inspirationaljournals.net/ or search @inspirationaljournalz_ on Instagram to visit).

“I decided to start my business because I want to give others a voice and allow people to have a healing and safe space,” Hubbard explained. I love being able to give others a safe space to grow and heal.”

McCullough and Tandy also have this goal. Through their platform, RUBY, these ladies hope to empower young women and push them to be bold, live wildly, and pursue their dreams (Go to theruby.community or search @_therubyco on Instagram to visit).

“We wanted to start RUBY because it has been our dream to help other young women understand that they are worthy and have purpose,” McCullough said. “We wanted to write the narrative that each of us has beauty and passion to offer on our own. And as [our mentor and CEO]  puts it, RUBY is a guide to find your ‘aligned brilliance™’.” 

Social media is extraordinarily prevalent in today’s society, especially amongst young people. This was a huge aid for these five ladies to advertise their businesses and platforms. 

“I mainly run my business through an Instagram account called bakingbyjade,” Mclellan said. “That’s where I promote things that I’ve made for orders, and for fun. I also have an email linked in the bio, where anyone can place orders for whatever they want. As my business grows, and I get more orders, I hope to create a website to help organize everything.”

RUBY utilized social media to share news about their platform, get others excited about the launch, and encourage people to get involved. 

“We started off on social media, and our brand photoshoot with Natalie Daniels actually helped us to gain a lot of following,” McCullough said. “We posted behind the scenes shots and previews of what was coming on the platform. Our podcast features incredible women in each episode, and having them interview with us has helped us to expand our audience to their people, too.”

Yanachik created and runs a website that potential customers can visit to browse the store. She is constantly updating it with new clothing as she launches various collections. Her dad helped her build this website and also consults with her on the economic side of everything.

“My process is very simple,” she said. “Wherever I see some swag designs on chinese streetwear social medias, I sit down and work on a design inspired by the look I saw.  Then I spend a couple days or weeks making it come to life and photograph it by myself in my studio.  Once it is ready to go on the website and be sold, I sit down with my dad and do lots of math to work out what price would be best to sell it at based on costs and labor… My dad is very smart and helps me manage my website and how it is set up for customers.”

Yanachik also makes sure to wear her clothing when she goes out to spark conversation and interest in those who see her.

“Expanding my customer base is as simple as wearing my clothes to highly crowded places,” she explained. “I got lots of new customers from wearing full Zen outfits in the airport and wearing my sweatshirts when I go snowboarding. I have my friends wear them too when they come with me. The guys that run the chairlifts are very supportive and stock up on every one of my launches.”

These small businesses are  powered by big dreams, goals, and passions. Mclellan, for example, has always hoped to one day own a bakery. 

“I decided to start Baking by Jade because I have loved to bake since I was little, and I’m passionate about doing it,” she said. “I’ve wanted to own a bakery for the longest time, and thought why not start now?”

Yanachik has ambitious plans to make Zen the start of a large career in fashion:

“This small business is just the jumping off point for my career and I hope this will blossom into a bigger corporation like Luis Vuitton by the time I am thirty.” 

Hubbard posts short videos on TikTok about her business, and that has helped her reach people all across the country who she would not have been able to reach otherwise.

“[Inspirational Journals] is growing fast in multiple states and locations around Michigan,” she said with excitement.

Both Yanachik and Hubbard also use pop-up stores to gain a new clientele. Essentially, they reach out to stores and ask if they would mind hosting them. Once approved, they choose a certain days  to go, set up, and sell some items.

One thing that all of these ladies shared is that their friends have been a huge support. Whether it’s helping when needed, being there for them, or advertising through social media and spreading the word to friends and family, they are often involved. 

“I have done all of the baking on my own, however I’ve had tons of support from close friends and family,” Mclellan said. “My friends Emma, Ellie, Kaci, Makenzie, and Natalie have been so helpful and supportive to me. They always help me when I need opinions, and are the best taste testers. They’re also going to be helping me with an upcoming project that I’ve been working on.”


Sometimes, however, it can be hard to manage friendship loyalty meanwhile running on a business.

“My friends support me by posting about my business and sharing my clothes with other people, but many of them avoid buying something and rather beg to get things for free,” Yanachik shared. “At the moment I do not have the capital to give away lots of clothes for free, but I hope that one day I can. I have overcome this problem by having giveaways on social media and promo codes every once in a while. I find that promo codes bring in new customers because who doesn’t love a good deal?”

For McCullough, her best friend, Tandy, was more than part of her support system. She was her co-founder:

“Sam takes on the community aspects and I am more in charge of our operations and RUBY collections, which is coming soon.”

Another individual who helped bring McCullough and Tandy’s dream of RUBY alive is Taylor Kanigowski, their mentor and CEO.

“I’ve loved learning under Taylor,” said McCullough. “She has so much experience and wisdom to share with Sam and I and it has brought me great joy to get a little sneak peek into the marketing and communications world.”

As people who were new to the business world, it was important for some of these young women to seek the expertise of others who have worked in the field.

“My uncle owns a business and is CEO at Blake’s Cider Mill, so he has been super helpful, giving me lots of advice and guidance,” Yanachik said.

Another thing that significantly helped Yanachik was the business class she took at Rochester High  School with Mrs. Karen Mulsbury. She is beyond happy that she took this course as it opened many doors for her.

“If I had not taken the class, I would have never been awarded a scholarship to Northwood University’s shark tank week coming up in June,” Yanachik explained. “Mrs. Mulsbury has given me the resources and knowledge to take my small business to the next level.

Through advertising and word of mouth, these five ladies have been able to grow their business even with the restraint of a worldwide pandemic and being young. Mclellan was even asked by RHS StuGo to bake cookies to give away to can drive participants.

“This past year, I have gotten more orders for baked goods,” she said. “I had the opportunity to make cookies for the can drive fundraiser at school. This was the biggest order I’ve ever done, and I learned a lot from it. Aside from this, I’ve also had more orders for a variety of cakes as well.”

Running a business takes a lot of time, work, and dedication, but for these ladies, the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it.

“Everything is done on my time and I create my own schedule,” Yanachik said. “It is nice because I do not have to answer to everyone, I can do whatever I want with my clothes and social media.  No one is blocking my creativity, I am the boss.”

Managing time does become quite tricky, though.

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced while running my business was definitely time management,” Mclellan said. “It took many hours of working late into the night for me to learn to manage my time effectively. I’ve learned to start as early as possible, and to make sure I’ve done an ingredient inventory before I start to avoid last minute grocery trips.”  

Sometimes, the largest obstacle is labor and production. When the idea and passion is there but the logistics are not entirely figured out, problems arise.

“Making the products was definitely the biggest challenge,” Hubbard said. “I learned how to make them quickly, so that’s very helpful.”

The idea of not being successful and simply knowing there is much unknown are scary thoughts for business owners, especially first time ones. They have great desire to make it work, but the world could potentially have other plans.

“I think thus far the biggest challenge has been to trust that what we are creating is needed,” McCullough shared. “It is a scary thing to put everything you’ve got into a project and then watch to see if it flourishes or not. But, we have had to learn that progress takes time, and to put our best efforts into whatever it is we’re creating.”

Operating businesses has not only taught these ladies a lot about the business world but also about themselves- who they are and what they desire.

“RUBY gives me a focus point to channel all of my creative energy, and to lead while doing it. I am so passionate about helping other women and bringing them with me as I too learn what it looks like to live a fulfilling life.”

Zen, Inspiration Journals, Baking by Jade, and RUBY have not stopped growing. Their founders are constantly working hard to ensure the development of their small business in hopes that one day, ‘small’ is not the word used to describe them. New things are coming, so check them out and stay tuned for Yanachik’s upcoming collection launch, Hubbard’s new t-shirts, Mclellan’s new holiday goods, and McCullough and Tandy’s membership collections.

“This year, I’m working on starting to sell more cookies for different holidays in order to raise money for selected charities,” Mclellan said. “I’m hoping to start this with Earth Day, and donating to an organization that is dedicated to fighting climate change.”