Harbison West Elementary student turns bows into booming business

The mother-daughter duo of Rozalynn and Gabrielle Goodwin has turned a common problem into a trendy business venture that’s catching the eye of other moms and daughters around the Southeast.

Eight-year-old Gabrielle is the youngest ever South Carolina Young Entrepreneur of the Year. (photo provided)

Gabrielle, 8, is the youngest person ever South Carolina Young Entrepreneur of the Year. (photo provided)

Gabrielle, a student at Harbison West Elementary School, is the namesake and inspiration behind GaBBY Bows, accessories she designed with her mother Rozalynn after losing one too many store-bought hair bows.

GaBBY Bows have gained attention outside of the Goodwin household, and Gabrielle was recognized last month as the South Carolina Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The 8-year-old is youngest to ever receive the award.

“It’s amazing to think that this all started with my daughter’s persistence,” Rozalynn Goodwin said. “This is 100 percent her idea and vision.”

“One of my favorites is the sweet pea because I like pink. We also have lady bug (barrettes) with different colors … and we are making new ones too,” Gabrielle said.

GaBBY Bows aren’t just for the stylish student. They hold on fast, something Rozalynn said other barrettes wouldn’t do when she sent Gabrielle off to school with twists or braids. After losing barrette after barrette, they decided to create a better option.

“Gabrielle and I would sit at the dinner table and compare what worked and what didn’t work,” Rozalynn said.

The result of their trial-and-error is the ultra-secure “Double-Face Double-Snap” design that can survive recess and other everyday activities. And since GaBBY Bows launched in February last year, retailers have taken notice.

Forty Walgreens in South Carolina and Georgia picked up GaBBY Bows, and now Bi-Lo stores across South Carolina will begin carrying the bows May 1.

Rozalynn credited her daughter for her enduring confidence during the three-year process to develop the product.

Gabrielle sport her creation at school, where even recess activities can't dislodge them. (photo provided)

Gabrielle sport her creation at school, where even recess activities can’t dislodge them. (photo provided)

“Gabrielle kept us on track, even when I didn’t want to go on. It was her faith and persistence that made me feel like we need to keep going … like we might really have something here,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about how to make hair barrettes and didn’t feel like I had time to start a business. But I did what any other mother would do … She had a dream. And as far as her dreams could take her, I took steps to try to make it happen.”

Gabrielle has learned the ins and outs of small business, and her mother said she handles a lot of the filing, inventory and writing thank-you notes to customers.

Shelia Shelby, Gabrielle’s teacher at the Escolares Academy at Harbison West Elementary, isn’t surprised Gabrielle has achieved so much at a young age.

“When working with groups of her classmates she demonstrates a fierce spirit of perseverance, and I know Gabrielle is well on her way to success in many areas of her life,” Shelby said. “In the classroom, I can hear her share her experiences as a young businesswoman which fuels the creative thinking of her peers.”

The Goodwin family has been invited to promote anti-bullying and to sponsor a children’s shelter, which Gabrielle says is important because “I can think of what it would be like to not have friends.” She said traveling to these business “playdates” is her favorite part of being a young entrepreneur.

“It’s a lot of fun to show the barrettes and meet new people,” she said.

GaBBY Bows is a top 15 finalist in the U.S. Small Business Administration 2015 InnovateHER Business Challenge. Gabrielle and Rozalynn will compete for part of $30,000 in prize money during a live pitch competition May 8 in Washington, D.C.

GaBBY Bows and local retailers can be found at GaBBYBows.com.

Categories: Business, Lexington County, Richland County