By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
HAGAMAN -- In search of a summer job in 2012, Amsterdam High School student LeiLei Secor decided to try making money by selling some of her handmade jewelry.
She created an online jewelry business Designed By Lei on Etsy.com, an online marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods.
In the first year of opening her shop, Secor sold 5,500 pieces of handmade jewelry that include wire wrap rings and earrings targeted to women. Today, Designed By Lei has sold more than 8,000 pieces in more than 30 countries.
"I am surprised how successful it has been, but at the same time I think its how much work you put into it," Secor said. "I put a lot of hard work in to my shop."
Not only does she have to figure out what she wants to make, then design it and create it, but she has to photograph it, list it, and make sure her work can be found through the search engine. The next step is to price it accurately and competitively, so it can compete with other businesses selling similar items, while at the same time make a profit. After a sale has been made, Secor has to package it and mail it.
Secor said a big part of the business is to make sure that she has good communication with her customers.
"One of the things about Etsy, people like that its personable," she said. "You feel that you are talking with a person and not a big corporation, but you are getting real craft items as if you were going to a craft show and going to buy it from someone like that."
Despite all the work that goes into, Secor said she enjoys it.
"I feel like its something that you can be really creative with and there are endless possibilities of what you can make," she said. "I think it's really satisfying, and to see something you thought of materialize is very rewarding."
She didn't realize how rewarding it is until she became the recipient of a $5,000 educational scholarship last week through the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation.
Secor was among five high school seniors in the country to be awarded the educational scholarship. The awards are part of a program that is designed to recognize, reward and encourage young men and women to pursue their dreams of owning and operating a small business.
Each award is between $1,000 and $15,000, and the scholarships are used to help with tuition for the winners' post-secondary education.
"I was so excited I won," she said, adding that the scholarship was competitive. "When I was applying I was looking at the past winners, and I knew there were hundreds of kids applying for this."
Secor has a chance to win even more money. On July 16, two of the five students will be awarded an additional $10,000 scholarship to apply to their college tuition. At a ceremony in Washington D.C., one student will be dubbed the "2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year" and the other will earn the "2014 Dan Danner Leadership Award."
Secor said she does not yet know what college she will be attending in the fall but she has it narrowed down between Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts or the University of Virginia.