How They Succeed in Business

A Spotlight on Students who Own Businesses in Canton High School

Katie Jarka
Katie Jarka stands over a pile of cookie cutters, before she spends hours after school baking for her company. - photograph by Kasey Charron

BY KASEY CHARRON

Laura Obermeyer stands peering through her camera, watching as the sun rises over the hills of Colorado’s Independence Pass, painting the skies in a vivid bubblegum pink. A few hours later, she uploads these images to her website. From there, customers around the world who are browsing for artwork can purchase this print.

Obermeyer is a freelance photographer, and is among many of the students at Canton High School who owns their own business. According to research conducted by the survey business Gallup, 43% of all students in grades 5-12 plan to own their own business one day. What is a dream to students across the country has already become a reality for so many at Canton High School.

With the versatility that online businesses offer, starting a business is a technologically possible task. But being tech-savvy isn’t everything in business ownership. Finding a sense of direction, according to Obermeyer, is the first step.

“Know what you want to do,” Obermeyer explains. “If you are good at something, do not doubt yourself. Always charge what you are worth, because not doing so can be detrimental to those doing similar work.”

Katie Jarka, a Canton High School senior, always knew she wanted to own a bakery one day. Jarka began her online bakery Katie Kakes for her senior project with English department chairperson Dr. Ruth Kidwell. Her website sells cupcakes, truffles, cookies, donuts and Chex mixes.

“Baking was my hobby, and then it turned into Katie Kakes,” Jarka expressed. “It feels pretty good. My friends are wondering what they want to do when they’re older, and I’m set.”

Jarka claims that her biggest barrier and complication was “Figuring out the pricing and what to charge people.”

“You have to be willing to get your hands dirty and make a commitment,” Jarka added. “It’s a big one.”

For Obermeyer, the high costs associated with photography, concerns that she will never make money or gain success by clicking cameras, and getting through high school having already found her passions are some of the many challenges she faces.  

“I feel I am extremely limited in my work to be honest,” Obermeyer noted. “My pursuit of documenting free skiing and outdoor lifestyles is most successful when I am able to be out west. I often times become creatively frustrated on the days that I could be shooting a large event or competition for brands and businesses that I collaborate with, but am stuck on the east coast due to my obligation to be in a classroom.”

Canton High School senior Noah O’Leary, like Obermeyer, began his own photography business freshman year when he bought his first camera. He shoots everything from weddings, pictures for businesses, senior portraits, modeling, and other “random stuff.”

O’Leary sees both a silver lining and a conflict between school and photography. While he says it’s a great revenue for business, like many student entrepreneurs note, time management has been his greatest complication.