Zoe Damacela, a Northwestern University Sophomore, has spent her life starting and maintaining entrepreneurial businesses with little assistance from parents or teachers. Her current business, Zoe Damacela Apparel, promises "Beautiful Clothes for Beautiful People", but Damacela's true contribution to society seems to be her dedication and deep-rooted belief in the development of young talent, small business and the importance of grass-roots marketing.
At age eight, Damacela began her first business venture with homemade greeting cards. Thank you cards and invitations evolved into a general interest in art, and soon she was showing her work in small art shows in the city of Chicago.
As she began her first year at WhitneyYoungHigh School in Chicago, she also launched her current apparel line using profits from previous business ventures. Although greatly supported by her mother, Damacela was encouraged from a young age that she would have to jumpstart and operate her businesses on her own.
"[My mom] was very adamant about the fact that if I wanted [my fashion line] to work and succeed, I had to do everything by myself," Damacela said.
The clothing line has transformed over the past four years from the creation of fun, teen-age formal wear to more sophisticated collaboration and specialization with a customer's style and preferences. Still using grass roots marketing online and through word of mouth, Damacela finds her business is lucrative, but somewhat inconsistent, with peak business happening around big events like proms and holidays.
Damacela's entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond the scope of her own business ventures to youth and innovation across the nation. She has been asked to attend many speaking engagements focused on encouraging American youth and putting their own ideas into action. Damacela attended Bill Clinton's Global Initiative in New York City and has been a keynote speaker for President Barack Obama's Start Up America Initiative.
According to Damacela, "The goal of the Start Up America Initiative is to help small businesses start, reduce time on trademarks and patents, help small business owners with loans and to give a firsthand account of how powerful [small businesses] are to the economy."
Even Tyra Banks featured Damacela on her talk show, "Tyra," when Damacela was 17. During the episode, Banks told Damacela she would be her mentor and introduce her to the fashion industry.
Damacela is also involved with the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship which inspires children and teenagers in low-income communities to stay in school, and it offers classes that teach these students how to develop entrepreneurial businesses with lessons on opportunity recognition and marketing. Damacela speaks with students and uses her real world experience and success to encourage others to follow their passion for innovation and business.
Just like any normal college student, Damacela shops at chain stores like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, but she prefers to wear her own designs to speaking engagements and sorority formals.
Damacela is confident in entrepreneurship and the survival of her own personalized, handmade clothing. She reminds us that with her apparel: "You're not going to walk into a party wearing the same dress as five other people."
Zoe Damacela Apparel
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