by Beth Fitzgerald
Ed’s note: This article originally ran in the May 20, 2011, issue of NJBIZ. It is reprinted here with permission.
Kaitlynn Zolnay was a third-grader when she started baking dog biscuits and selling them to local pet stores. Unlike most third-graders’ startups, Bandit’s Biscuits is still in business, and Zolnay also runs Orchidaceous, a decorative art business she launched in high school.
The junior was only 9 when she became an entrepreneur, “and to this day, I’m not sure why I liked it so much,” she said.
“It’s exciting to talk to people, work with people, and do something to help other people, and I enjoy it. You sit down and work through a problem; it’s always changing.”
Zolnay said while she was growing up, her parents encouraged her to “do something you are passionate about,” and she discovered early on that running a business provided that emotional reward.
Zolnay, a business major, hasn’t decided what path she’ll take after graduation. “I may decide to work full-time on both businesses, or I may change my mind by the time I graduate.”
She sells her artwork through house parties, and had a gallery show in Lambertville, New Jersey. Her parents have two ovens in their Stockton home to bake dog biscuits while their daughter is at school. When she’s home, though, she jumps back in, baking and delivering her biscuits to pet stores and filling online orders.
Running her own business “allows you to do something that you enjoy and that is yours,” she said. “When you wake up in the morning, you know that you can grow and change however you want. I’ll probably stick with my own business, because of the excitement and it’s what I love to do.”
And Zolnay said she already has reaped some of the tangible rewards of owning a successful enterprise—after years of saving and investing her profits, last year she bought her first car, a Volvo C70 convertible.
Not surprisingly, she’s had her eye on that model long before she had a driver’s license—actually, ever since was in the third grade.