Not many 16-year-olds who need summer jobs start their own businesses, but that’s exactly what Maggie Liu, founder of MXL Outfitters, did in 2014. And it all began with a tweet.
“I have always wanted to own a clothing store, so I decided to start by creating a shirt and posting it on Twitter,” she says. The post received hundreds of retweets and favorites.
And just like that, MXL Outfitters, an online shop that provides trendy apparel for teenage girls, was off the ground. Two years later, the Claypool, Indiana, teen has been named a 2016 NFIB Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist.The heart of the business is Liu’s creativity. “Most of my shirt designs are hand-drawn and then edited to perfection,” she says. “I hope that everyone can find inspiration when shopping at my store. Whether a person is girly or grungy, my clothes are designed to emphasize their unique individuality.”
But creating unique designs for shirts is one thing, running a business is another. As a 16-year-old, Liu was intimidated by that part of the process.
“I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I had my mother who supported my passion for business and entrepreneurship,” she says. “The emotional support she gave me helped me a lot to succeed in the long run.”
Liu learned the nuts and bolts of running a business by researching online and asking other businesspeople and teachers for advice. And there was a bit of trial and error involved as well.
“I had to figure out most of the business side of things by making mistakes,” she says. “I failed at some things through my journey, but I love failure because I always learn from it. Learning from your mistakes helps you improve your business and learn more about yourself in the process.”
One of those lessons learned was about the importance of drive.
“Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love,” she says. “When I first started my business, there were people who doubted me and my abilities. They did not think I would be able to manage a business and be a full-time high school student at the same time. However, I learned how to manage my time, create a schedule, and make everything work out for me.”
Another important lesson involved the power of social media, which her marketing strategy is entirely focused on.
“The market on [social media] is massive,” Liu says. She uses social media to share pictures of her clothing, and her fans and followers share those pictures with their audiences. Through the intelligent use of social media marketing, she has amassed more than 150,000 followers and developed a loyal customer base.
“I use Instagram the most, and my business account has 100,000 followers at the moment. Being able to interact with customers on many social media platforms has been and will continue to be extremely important in my marketing strategy.”
Liu will be attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, but that doesn’t mean she’s giving up her business. Her next goal is to make it brick-and-mortar and grow the company from there.
“I would love for my business to create a lasting legacy for my family,” she says. “As my business grows, I plan on recruiting family members into the company and employ them to run the business. My future children may eventually take over the business and continue to run it for many generations.”
NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Awards is an annual scholarship program designed to reward and encourage entrepreneurial talents in high school students. Meet all the 2016 winners here, and learn about how you can sponsor a scholarship here.