“Instead of just working a typical job, you can start something for yourself,” says Dominic Samoraj, owner of Nic of Timing and CompeTENT. Samoraj and his classmates, Patrick Penfield and Michael Spicer, are hosting the Young Entrepreneur Business Fair to showcase their wares May 21 at Baker High School.
By Ashley M. Casey
Many teenagers aren’t sure what they’ll study in college, let alone what they’ll be doing for a living later on. But a group of area high school students are coming together to showcase the businesses they’ve started.
Baker High School senior Patrick Penfield, owner of Penfield Antiques and American Watch Co., is hosting the Young Entrepreneur Business Fair on May 21 in the Baker cafeteria. Penfield and two other young Baldwinsville business owners, Michael Spicer and Dominic Samoraj, sat down with the Messenger to talk about the fair and what it’s like to be a teen entrepreneur.
Penfield said he has invited more than two dozen young business owners from Baker, Cicero-North Syracuse, Central Square, Marcellus, Fulton and West Genesee high schools to participate in the event, which is meant to promote the idea of entrepreneurship.
“It’s kind of just to show off the accomplishments of other kids in the area,” said Spicer, who owns Dunbar Maple.
Penfield said the event is also about networking and “exposure to the real world” for local startups.
“It’s hard to own a business in the state of New York, especially being young,” Penfield said. “It’s hard to compete with other businesses.”
Samoraj, owner of Nic of Timing and CompeTENT, said his parents’ ventures gave him a natural entry into the business world. Mike and Michelle Samoraj own Willow Health and Wellness Center; they operate the Greater Baldwinsville and Camillus Farmers Market and manage numerous race events throughout the year. Dominic Samoraj began timing races for his parents’ events, and Nic of Timing was born.
“Instead of just working a typical job, you can start something for yourself,” Samoraj said. “[Other students] can see, ‘Here are kids that actually did that.’”
Samoraj said he has learned from his father’s trial-and-error path to success.
“He had a lot of failures and he had a lot of different experiences that he has been able to share with me,” he said.
Like Samoraj, Penfield and Spicer recognized that the support of their families has been integral to their success. Spicer, who founded Dunbar Maple in 2010 at the age of 11, said his mother “lets me use the yard for whatever I need.” Spicer’s tinkering has paid off: In 2012, the New York State Maple Producers Association gave him the NYS Young Maple Sugarmaker award. Dunbar Maple has grown from six taps to more than 100, and Spicer plans to expand his product line with maple cream, candy, barbecue sauce and vinaigrette.
“We’re thinking about tapping into the running side of things,” Spicer added. He is looking into creating an energy gel, or a carbohydrate supplement, for marathon runners and other athletes.
“We’re all really lucky to have parents that let us try new things instead of telling us, ‘Just go out and get a job,’” Penfield said.
The three moguls in the making had some advice for budding young entrepreneurs.
Samoraj warned not to “get a big head” and to keep prices affordable when starting out. Young people have to work a bit harder to establish their businesses.
“If you want people to take you seriously, you need to take yourself seriously,” he said. “Be professional about it and show them that you understand you are an upcoming business.”
Spicer said it may be cliché, but the phrase “‘Anything is possible’ is truly a reality.”
“It’s easier than you think,” Penfield said of starting a business.
The Young Entrepreneur Business Fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at Baker High School, 29 E. Oneida St., Baldwinsville. Admission is $1 and proceeds go toward a business scholarship.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.