Teens enjoy success as they make lemonade out of lemon of an employment climate

Since the recession of 2008, teens have had a difficult time securing jobs to earn money over the summer. Frustrated by the lack of employment opportunities, several Lake Oswego teens became entrepreneurs this summer and created businesses that hopefully will be padding their bank accounts handsomely by summer’s end.

Encouraged by Lake Oswego mom Suzanne Young, Nick Poloni, Chad Poloni, Young’s daughters, Madeline and Whitney, and Chris Oelrich shared their stories of how they are beating the summertime blues by going into business for themselves, hoping their experience will encourage other teens to become entrepreneurs too.

* Nick Poloni

A talented photographer, Nick Poloni has founded Ndotp Photography. The Oregon State University sophomore is majoring in business with an emphasis in photography.

Poloni relies heavily on Facebook to market his business, as well as email and word of mouth. Using social media he has connected with many members of Lakeridge High School’s incoming senior class with offers for senior portrait sessions.

“Mostly I’ve been in contact with upcoming seniors of the class of 2013 to do their senior portraits. I’ve also been doing other portraits and then I have some weddings coming up too, later in the summer,” he said. “I use Facebook because it’s cheap and easy and most kids get on it at least once a day. It’s highly used and has lots of traffic.”

Poloni plans on pursuing a career in photography and considers this experience to be a solid foundation for a successful career.

“In my opinion, the most valuable training you can have is experience,” he said. “I’ve been self-taught for four years and kind of got to understand how to take pictures and then read a lot of stuff online and then decided it was time to take some professional classes at OSU. I think I’ve caught up as far as learning goes, but there is always more to learn and different techniques to add.

“If I had a slogan it might be ‘the work of a professional photographer but the prices of an amateur.’ I’d rather have 10 happy customers making the same amount of money than five (higher priced customers), because that way word of mouth gets out faster. I have a lot of fun doing this.”

You can contact Poloni via Facebook, online at or by phone at 503-860-0505.

* Chad Poloni

Chad Poloni, Nick’s brother, will be a junior at Lakeridge next fall. He started a retail coffee and tea business, Mojo Custom Coffee, selling Harney & Sons Tea and home-roasted coffee beans.

“Harney & Sons is based out of Connecticut and it is our friends’ company, so I get the tea wholesale from them,” he said. “And then the coffee I get the beans from a company online called Sweet Maria’s and then I have two coffee roasters in my garage. I roast the green coffee beans in my garage and I sell those as well.”

Chad learned to roast coffee from a friend when he was in sixth grade. He has sold his home-roasted coffee beans since he was in seventh grade but just this year put more effort into the enterprise.

“I have all types of tea,” he said. “I have iced tea, green tea, organic tea and black tea. A tin of 20 silk satchets sells for $8 and a pound of coffee sells for $12.”

Chad’s goal for Mojo Custom Coffee is lofty but certainly attainable.

“My goal is to build the company up so I can pay for college myself,” he said. “Right now I have an order of $600 of wholesale tea, so I am trying to sell that and go from there.”

Purchase coffee and tea online at or call Chad at 503-333-3101.

* Madeline Young

Madeline Young has a “green” component to her business. She is reusing wine bottle corks to create her attractive Cork Dork cork boards.

“Corks are pretty,” she said. “My mom likes keeping them around and we just came up with a classy little design using them. We thought perhaps other people would find them attractive too.”

The women have been collecting wine bottle corks from World Class Wines and area restaurants; an item the businesses would have just tossed in the trash before. They glue them together and then put them into picture frames, which they buy as inexpensively as possible. The cork boards can be used as trays, trivets, message boards and in other practical and decorative ways.

“It’s a great recycling project and it’s just fun to do,” the Seattle Pacific University sophomore said.

She also relies on Facebook to sell her products and will hold a special Cork Dork sales event July 20 from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at World Class Wines, located at 269 A Ave. in Lake Oswego, during their regular Friday evening tasting. The public is invited to attend.

To contact Young and view Cork Dork products, visit her Facebook page or call her at 503-459-7201.

* Whitney Young

Whitney Young, Madeline’s sister, has man’s best friend’s interests at the heart of her business. The Lakeridge junior has a dog walking service and hopes to keep pets happy and healthy by taking them out for regular exercise.

“Right now I am just walking my grandma’s dog,” she said. “But I would be happy to walk other dogs, any kind of dog.”

Whitney charges $10 per hour and walks usually last about an hour.

Although her availability will be limited for the next month, you can leave messages for her with her sister, Madeline.

* Chris Oelrich

Many of the teens report that their mothers assist with marketing by sending emails to their contact lists. That is how Chris Oelrich got his start in the power washing business.

“My mom borrowed a power washer last year and that’s how I got started,” he said. “She sent out a mass email and I started getting jobs to do power washing. I’ll get some fliers printed now and get those out. Costs are determined by the job; it runs between $10 and $15 per hour. I like to start early and I personally do all the work.”

Oelrich will be studying music at the University of Montana next fall. To contact him, call 503-545-5318.

Even as we enter the second half of July, it’s not too late to think of ways to earn money this summer.

The teens advise others to remember that the early bird gets the worm and you’ve got to hear a lot of “nos” before you get to “yes” — just keep at it.

“And choose something you really enjoy doing and find fun,” Madeline Young said, “because you are going to be pretty much married to it!”

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