In many ways, Margo Gianos of Oklahoma City is a lot like other 13-year-old girls—she likes to hang out with her friends, she plays soccer after school and she studies hard to make straight As. On the other hand, she’s anything but typical. Margo is the founder of her own company, Honestly Margo, and she’s making waves as a 13-year-old entrepreneur taking the world by storm with a mix of savvy business know-how, a family-based support system and a “never-say-die” attitude.
It’s a winning mix for the pre-teen, who has started more companies in her youth than most entrepreneurs do in a lifetime. “I was always interested in making money,” said Margo. “When I was eight, I started a pet fashion business making cat collars, and I did stuff like beads on pipe cleaners. I basically tried to sell whatever I could.”
The desire to create a business was born from watching her parents. Her mother Irene is a successful blogger and businesswoman in her own right, and her father owns a dry cleaning business and other businesses. Margo was born to run her own empire. “I watched and learned,” Margo said. “I wanted to start a business and sell. I Googled ways for a kid to make money, and I found lip balm.”
With that in mind, Margo discovered the secret recipe of success. Now, Honestly Margo lip balms are selling in several states, and the teen business wonder is looking even higher.
“A lot of lip balms out there say they are all natural, but they aren’t,” Margo said. “On one popular brand, it even tells you to call poison control if swallowed! I learned that a lot of lip balm is not so healthy, so I wanted to make mine all natural.”
Margo experimented with products from local health food stores, using oils and beeswax and other natural items to finally perfect a balm she was happy with. Her lip balm contains only four ingredients that help treat people with psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. “We didn’t stop until we got a really good lip balm,” said Margo. “I learned a lot about chemistry. I learned about business in general. Since the beginning, I’ve learned how to grow a business, how to market. Social media is a big part of that.”
The first flavor was pumpkin cheesecake, and she sold 50 tubes to kids at her school in one week. She kept selling more and more to her friends at school until she had to make more. “Margo asked me, ‘Well, what should we name it?’ said Irene, Margo’s mother. “We were out at the craft stores to get stickers to put on the tubes, and I had a moment. I asked her, ‘Do we want to keep it small or do something big with it? Do you want to be the next big empire?’”
At that point, the decision was made. The Gianos’ hired a professional graphic designer and began serious branding and marketing. Margo’s father helped her secure her federal tax ID number and business licenses, and Honestly Margo was born. “The first stores we were in were from referrals,” Irene said. Today, Honestly Margo lip balms are sold in 44 stores in nine states. Honestly Margo offers six different flavors—Pumpkin Cheesecake, Very Berry, Fruit Colada, Caramel Apple, Lemon and plain.
“I would be nowhere without my mom and dad,” Margo said. “My mom is my biggest cheerleader and helps me with everything. I’ve always learned a lot about how to balance my life. School comes first, then business, then soccer and then time with my friends. Sometimes I can’t go hang out with my friends because I have to do the business.”
Honestly Margo isn’t in daily production, but when orders come in, they come in big. The whole family comes together to help create the batches of lip balm, and each batch yields 300 to 400 tubes of lip balm. Margo and her parents, as well as her brother and her grandparents, all pitch in to manufacture the lip balm, put stickers on the tubes and shrink wrap the orders. “We are at the middle point now where we need to decide if we need a manufacturer or not,” said Margo. “It depends on the demand. But, we make huge batches at home for now.”
Balancing life, business and school can be difficult, but family support helps ease the work load. “As long as she is passionate about it, we will support her,” said Irene. “I want her to always have fun and enjoy it. But, I want her to be a kid, too, and enjoy that. Parents need to recognize and be supportive when their kids want to do something. They need to see what’s in front of them and encourage their kids’ dreams.” The future looks bright for the straight-A student. In a few months, she plans to announce an addition to the Honestly Margo brand, but for now, it’s a secret.
“I want to grow this business,” said Margo. “I want to do this, and I want this company to be what I do when I get older. People go to college to learn about running a business, but I’m learning so much now. I’m going to college, but if you want to be successful, you have to dream big and believe in it.”
Margo’s message to her peers and to entrepreneurs of all ages is to work hard and believe in success. “Anyone can do anything, whether you’re 10 or 100,” she said. “You put in the work, you learn a lot and you keep your eyes open. Learn from everything. I want to inspire other girls to do something big for themselves too.”
For more information about Honestly Margo, visit www.honestlymargo.com.