Gracie Schram says she became an entrepreneur by accident. When she was 10 years old, she heard about the terrible living conditions of orphans in Africa and wanted to do something. She had been singing for years and started writing music at age 7, so she went to her parents and asked if she could make a CD to raise money. It took off. She collected more than $40,000 to build two fish ponds in Africa, a home in Colombia and an orphanage in Haiti.
“I learned very quickly that this was more than just a fundraiser,” says the teenager from Leawood, Kansas. The experience inspired her to keep going.
Gracie Schram Music now includes the creation, performance, and distribution of original music. The company is comprised of a record label, two publishing companies, and a nonprofit fund used for humanitarian work.
Her efforts have led to a 2016 NFIB Young Entrepreneur Award scholarship—she was named a finalist for Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
After releasing two CDs at 10 and 12 years old, Schram recorded her debut studio album, I Am Me, with Grammy Award-winning producer Charlie Peacock. I Am Me reached the top 10 of the singer/songwriter chart on iTunes and hit Billboard’s Heatseeker chart. Most recently, she was the opening artist for American Idol runner-up David Archuleta’s sold-out tour.
“My mission is to use my music to inspire people to be their extraordinary selves to change the world,” she says.
Because she got into it at such a young age, Schram says she didn’t know enough to be intimidated or apprehensive about starting a business. She believed in herself, and it was enough.
“Kids are fearless,” she says. “There were definitely times when people said, ‘You’re too young’ or ‘You’re just one person,’ or ‘Do you really believe you can make an impact?’ But instead of feeling discouraged, I believed in the power of one person.”
One major lesson she learned was to just forge ahead regardless.
“You don’t have to create an elaborate plan or have all the answers to start a business,” she says. “No one has all the answers, and you just have to find the courage to start. Entrepreneurship is a huge challenge and lots of work, but it is empowering to know you created something out of nothing.”
Schram’s parents are serial entrepreneurs. She feels like business is in her blood.
“Having this foundation of entrepreneurship has served me well,” she says. “Although the music business is completely different from what my parents do, they have imparted a business mindset that has been invaluable to me.”
One way this played out was when she was 12 years old and decided to run a small musical theater camp with a couple of friends. At the end of the week, her dad worked through a profit and loss statement with her.
“Not many 12-year-olds even know what a P&L is,” she says. “Within the music business, many artists are not interested or don’t have the aptitude for the business side of music, thus setting me apart from the norm. My business is unique because I am the product, writing the music and performing at concerts, but I also run the business, working on brand partnerships, social media, and creative strategy.”
Her lofty goal is to change the world through the power of music.
“I want to build not only a successful business but create a large platform in order to affect people,” she says. “This journey has grown so much bigger than I could have imagined, and I truly believe that my efforts have made an impact. Performing in front of over 300,000 people to date, I’ve received hundreds of emails and letters from people moved by my music and inspired to make an impact of their own. It’s exciting to think of the ripple effect of each individual encouraged by my musical, humanitarian, and entrepreneurial spirit.”
The next step in Schram’s journey is college—she will attend Belmont University in Nashville this fall to study music business.
“I am so excited to be in Music City and continue building my business while going to school. NFIB has provided me an amazing opportunity, and I’m truly grateful for all they do to support entrepreneurs like me.”
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.