Spring C-VILLE Kids: Girl wonder: At 17, Caroline Tillman’s got big business

Photo: Amanda Maglione Photo: Amanda Maglione

Some teenagers spend their time planning their next Snapchat story. But 17-year-old Caroline Tillman is planning her next business move.

When she was 10, she went on a three-year circumnavigation with her parents on their sailboat, and while at sea, freelanced for a few national sailing magazines. It was then that she caught the entrepreneurial bug.

“The concept of making money in a way that directly correlated with the work I put in really appealed to me,” she said. So she founded Poppy and Elle, which specializes in decorative ponytail holders and other hair accessories.

Currently, she offers print, ruffle, glitter, tie-dye and solid-colored hair ties through her Etsy shop and a few boutiques in the area. “They’re a great alternative to the traditional pony tail holder,” she said, “They are more chic, don’t leave a ‘ponytail dent’ and look pretty on your wrist.” Plus, they’ve made her a nice little nest egg. Caroline said she reinvests some of her profits into the business, but tries to save as much as she can.

“I’d love to follow in my parents’ footsteps and complete a circumnavigation of my own, or go backpacking for awhile,” she said. “Saving money now will help these ideas become a reality.”

So far, she’s sold more than 20,000 units of product through online sales, wholesale orders from nationwide boutiques and partnerships with subscription box companies like Umba Box and Goodebox. And she handles all of the business operations herself—from production and product photography to marketing and customer service. Though she does occasionally need a little last-minute assistance, like from her 9-year-old sister, Violet, who pitches in on large orders when Caroline’s pressed for time and sometimes models products for the Etsy store.

As for the future, Caroline definitely wants to do something entrepreneurial as an adult, but is waiting to see how Poppy and Elle grows in the next couple of years. “I’m planning on adding more products to my offerings and focusing more on gaining wholesale clients in the subscription commerce industry,” Caroline said. Sounds like a plan.

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