By Ava Stanski
Graduating high school is the only concern for many teenagers before going off to college. For recent Severna Park High graduate Erica Szymanski, however, her high school career is only the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to excelling on her schoolwork, Szymanski manages two businesses. River Beads, her first business, sells handmade bead jewelry, with the majority of the profits going toward the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Her second business, Erica Morgan Designs, specializes in magnets and decals with area-specific designs.
It’s not just her customers who are taking notice. Szymanski was acknowledged with the Rising Star Student Entrepreneur Award during the Small Business Association Maryland awards ceremony on June 6.
“It was a huge honor that I wasn’t expecting,” Szymanski said, “But, as surprising as it was, it was also incredibly rewarding.”
Szymanski has made great strides in the development and expansion of her companies.
“My main goal for River Beads is to maintain our products and our presence through craft fairs and other avenues. I’ll even make a few pieces of my own if I have time,” she explained. “But most of my time is focused on expanding and improving Erica Morgan Designs.”
Whereas Erica Morgan Designs previously stocked two designs of stickers and magnets, the website now displays six designs for decals and magnets, all of which Szymanski designed herself, in addition to T-shirt options for her Bethany Beach design.
“The Virginia Beach market is about 400 times bigger than the Maryland market,” Szymanski explained, “so when I added a Virginia Beach design to the website, interest in my products really increased.”
Szymanski also plans to expand her products to include prints, textiles, and even a children’s book. “I first wrote the words to it in elementary school, but I recently designed the illustrations with watercolors, then sent them off to a professional illustrator to recreate them digitally,” Szymanski explained. She recently attained the funding for her new book from a pitch competition at Anne Arundel Community College, where she also received a certificate in business through the Ratcliffe Scholarship Program. “Technically, I graduated college before I graduated high school,” she said.
When asked about how she was able to spread awareness about her products, Szymanski explained, “I do have a social media presence, which helps, but I mainly go to networking events at AACC in order to reach out to local vendors and secure contracts.”
Szymanski’s flourishing businesses aren’t her only concerns, “I’m attending the University of Virginia in the fall, so I’ll have to take some of my focus away from the businesses,” she said, “but summer is when most of our business come in, so it works out pretty well.” Szymanski has also made sure that she is able to give back to the community. “Most recently, I designed an Annapolis Strong decal that I collaborated on with Whimsicality Boutique; $5 of every purchase went to the Capital Gazette Families Fund,” she said.
In addition, Szymanski has created a Maryland decal to raise money for those displaced by the flooding of Ellicott City, and she has given 75% percent of her sales on Redbubble to benefit to victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.