Sydney working on her designs
In December 2018, Sydney Day Weikart, a high school sophomore from Alexandria, Virginia, took $200 and a passion for hand-lettering and started a greeting-card business. She used $100 to purchase supplies to make the cards and spent the other $100 on materials and costs for a table at a kids’ fair that featured kid businesses, crafts, and art. Then 13 years old, she launched Sydney Day Design, relying on YouTube videos to learn about shipping, taxes and product creation costs. She also took online classes through Skillshare to improve her design skills with advice from professionals. She learned to use colors and space effectively and she began creating art with her iPad and Apple Pencil.
When she started selling her cards, she had trouble building her website and improving her ranking in Google searches. She struggled to expand her sales and Instagram followers outside of her friends and family.
Her first milestone came in 2019, when she met Trailblazer.FM podcast host Stephen A. Hart at a kids’ fair, and he asked her to design 100 custom thank-you cards for his podcast guests. It took her more than two hours to design each card by hand. Now she designs everything digitally using her iPad and Procreate, professional software for artists that provides access to a variety of digital brushes for painting, drawing and sketching. In January, she started designing her own digital Procreate brushes and now sells them to other artists. So far, she’s made $300 on sales.
The pandemic gave her more time to work on Sydney Day Design. She started waking at 7 a.m. to work on her business before online school, and in between classes, she learned how to use different Instagram marketing features, such as stories, posts, reels and hashtags. One of her reels focused on balancing school, sports and her business, and featured Weikart lip-synching a line from the reality-TV show The Real Housewives of Atlanta: “People get exhausted trying to figure me out — and I just let them.” It reached 800,000 views and more than 60,000 likes.
She also built her followers by consistently posting stories and reels. Without buying followers, she hit her second milestone in the summer of 2020, growing her Instagram following from 1,000 to 10,000, a target that unlocks additional features on the platform, such as the ability to embed links in stories. She recently surpassed 20,000 followers.
Employing TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, she has completed more than 1,000 sales since she launched in 2018, resulting in more than $10,000 in sales. She started with colorful greeting cards and notepads and now offers additional stationery products such as notebooks, sticky notes and stickers. She typically ships five to 25 orders a week. Holidays and launch weeks are especially busy, since she usually sells out of popular designs, which include The Electric Polka Notepad, The Smiley To Do Notepad, and the Grind Time Notebook. Black Friday 2020 brought in more than $2,000 in profits and more than 150 sales to her tween/teen customer base.
Weikart is still a full-time high school student and runs on the school track team (which resumed competition in December 2020), making time management necessary. “I always make sure to write out a to-do list every morning,” she says. “One of the most rewarding things is sitting down each morning and using the products I create to organize my day like my Rainbow Daily Planner and the Smiley To Do notepad.”
On weekends, she spends time packaging and shipping new orders. To keep shipping times fast and environmental impact low, it was important to her that products and packaging were sourced and made in the U.S., and although she didn’t start this way, she has worked toward becoming an eco-friendly brand. Sydney Day Design uses biodegradable bags and most of its products are paper-based and thus recyclable. All plastic packaging is re-used or plant based.
In August 2020, Weikart started sharing what she learned about starting her business through her podcast, “Small Business Saturday,” where she features other teen entrepreneurs like Lexi Bragg of Happie Camper Shop, who talked with Weikart about the emotional toll of seeking approval on social media. “If I don’t get the average amount of likes that I get on a picture, and I get lower than that, it’s really disappointing, and it makes me get down on myself,” Bragg said on a recent show. Weikart was sympathetic: “People will say … don’t worry about the numbers … but as a business owner, that’s exactly what you do have to focus on.”
Weikart recently launched digital courses on her website, priced at $8-$20. Topics range from marketing your business to growing individual social-media platforms.
At 13, Weikart was looking for a hobby. Now almost 16, she has turned that hobby into a part-time business. “I’d love to see Sydney Day Design continue to grow and create a community,” she says. “I also can’t wait to one day work with retail partners. Target is the big, big dream.”
Sydney working on her designs