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Business expo features young – but ready – entrepreneurs

expo-1-600Kustom Kosher, Treasured Collections, Thirtyone22 Boutique, Corn Cases and Elusive Expressions! are businesses that share a common trait. Each has an owner in the 16-to-25 age range.

Gregory Taylor, owner of iStylez, brought the young entrepreneurs – and several more like them – together for an Outdoor Business Expo at Audubon Park last Friday (April 12).

A 20-year-old student at the University of Memphis, Taylor too shares the young-entrepreneur trait. His company specializes in Apple product repairs, including iPhones, iPads and iPods. He describes the idea of creating iStylez as "a gift from God that I came across at 3 a.m. while watching videos on YouTube."

With the idea firmly planted, Taylor began his research, including identifying the supplies and tools needed to get started. He borrowed $300 from his mom, promising not to ask for more, a promise he has kept.

Starting out as a home-based business, iStylez moved into an office at the Ridgeway Business Center about 8 months ago. The move put Taylor in position to interact with seasoned business professionals willing to help him grow his business.

expo-2-600The idea of organizing the Outdoor Business Expo came to Taylor as he was driving. He wanted to create something that could be fun and laid back while giving young entrepreneurs like himself the opportunity to get some exposure for their businesses. If all goes according to the plan, it will become an annual event.

Kustom Kosher's owners – Zaadia Harris, 17, Zayrion Harris, 16, and Marleisha Malone, 21 – got their start about a year ago after observing a need for more customized-clothing options. Their Expo display gave a sense of what they have to offer, including a range of T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and jackets, with consumers able to choose their colors. Over the next three years, the goal is to make Kustom Kosher a household name.

Not far from the Kustom Kosher's display, Corintha Jones, a 23-year-old University of Memphis student, was pitching Corn Cases, her personalized phone accessory company.

For Jones, making phone cases started out as a hobby last summer and blossomed into a business with the motto "Any Case, Any Design, Any Day." The Expo was her first show, and it landed her several new clients.

Lena Evans, 21, has been making clothes since high school. She is majoring in fashion and home design at the U of M. She started her business, Thirtyone22 Boutique, in July 2012. She gets vintage jeans and jackets and redesigns them into something more modern and fashionable and unique. She also offers a range of handmade and printed graphic shirts.

Mariah Conley loves meeting people, an affinity that serves her well as owner of Elusive Expressions, a photography business. A U of M student, Conley once had a cake business prior to starting Elusive Expressions last January. With no regrets about the transition, she is positioning herself to expand her photography business, including doing more weddings and parties.

As for Taylor, he contemplates expanding iStylez to a college environment in New Orleans or Knoxville, where he can tap into the diversity of markets.

He also wants to make the Expo an annual event. Asked about advice he would give others trying to start their own business, Taylor said, "It's all about dedication, commitment and understanding. It can't be bought; the success of your business is based on the drive within yourself because when you take on the responsibility of a business, it becomes your life.

"When you dedicate yourself 100 percent to your business you are able to see flaws and what you need to improve. Once you discover that, then why wouldn't you succeed?"

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