Charity Chokers Shows Smashing Success

Credit: Emma Kunz

Credit: Emma Kunz

Running a three-women business is no small feat. Finding the time to do so while being an ever-busy high school student? Some may say it’s nearly impossible- but not for Ramsey DECA students Mariana Steiner, Evelyn Ivry, and Julia Scavone. Since 2016, determination and hard work has allowed them to fulfill their dream of opening Charity Chokers, a business focused on selling fashion-forward jewelry for a fantastic cause. Below, I talk to Mariana to get the inside scoop on how she manages to fill the shoes of a business owner, student, family member, and friend day in and day out, and her secrets on reaching this success. After reading, be sure to check out Charity Choker’s website for chokers and newly arriving bracelets and scrunches at:

Q: How has your upbringing in Ramsey influenced your decision to start a business?

A: I’ve grown up in Ramsey ever since I’ve moved here eight years ago. Although a lot of us don’t know it, we are very privileged to live in such a nice town that holds so many opportunities. Growing up, I always had the subconscious knowledge that I was better off than many other people. Combined with the many opportunities that Ramsey provides, I realized that I could use my privilege to help those who were not as fortunate or given as many choices in life.

Q: For those who don’t know, what exactly is DECA and how did it affect the development of your business?

A: DECA is the business club at Ramsey High School, which globally works with high school and college students to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in areas such as marketing, financing, hospitality, and management. This year I chose to do the Learn and Earn project with my now co-workers, Evelyn and Julia. Working in partnership with DECA really helped to break down the process of starting a business in order to fully develop it to the best it can be. As a result, we know how to advertise to our target market and are able to fill online orders on the daily.

Q: How did you get the idea to start Charity Chokers? What obstacles did you face when starting the company?

A: I specifically came up with the idea of Charity Chokers two years ago, during my freshman year at Ramsey High School. The idea truly sparked after watching the movie Lion, which focuses on poverty in India and the hardships that come along with it for many people. This really opened my eyes to real world issues that I had known existed beforehand, but had not necessarily paid attention to. I started the business after getting into contact with the organization that partnered with the movie, called Magic Bus. They work to educate impoverished children in India to help break the cycles of poverty affecting their communities. I fell in love with their mission and strategies on how to deal with such a widespread problem, and was able to develop a close connection with the president of the organization and Magic Bus’s New York City-based team. One by one, I started to slowly design my chokers while posting the results on my Instagram (@charitychokers). I was extremely lucky to immediately receive such widespread support from family and friends- before I knew it, I made my first donation of $150 to Magic Bus!

Q: Is running your business ever difficult or overwhelming? What have you been able to take away from these experiences?

A: Running a business is hard for three junior girls with full plates- we’re trying to balance school, friends, family, college, and plans for the future all at the same time! We’ve gained the knowledge of how to plan ahead and time manage, scheduling time when all of us are free to hand make each individual choker. At times, we have spent over 7 hours in one sitting to accomplish the day’s work. It all pays off in the end- not only in sales, but also knowing the value of hard work during an important time in our lives. Being passionate about something you truly care about can take you to places you’ve never previously imagined.

Q: Do you find it challenging to be a woman in business?

A: There are some pros and cons of being women in business in today’s day and age. We have the advantage of being the people who wear our product and can connect to our target market, which ranges from girls 8 to 21. However, it has proven difficult at times to not be taken as seriously as men would be at times.

Q: Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for readers or those thinking of starting their own company?

A: Do it. Don’t give up. Even if you feel like your aspirations aren’t taking off in the right direction at first, or your time and dedication is limited by your busy life, or if you feel that you don’t stand out as unique in the crowd of a saturated market. DO. IT… you never know if you don’t try. When Charity Chokers was in its beginning stages, I only had my closest friends buy one or two chokers. Today, people from as far as Florida have been ordering; contributing to a fantastic cause and rocking some trendy pieces!