Episode 164

Kayla Awadin Β·  Trailblazing the Path for Future High School Entrepreneurs

β€œI think it's definitely if you're not passionate about it, you shouldn't do it because if you're passionate about it, the work you do is going to feel less tiring versus if you're just doing it to do it and you don't have like a passion for it, it's going to feel like homework.”

Currently a senior at Elkins High School, Kayla was the former CMO of our #1 ranked startup at Nationals, Elkins Very Own or EVO. She also represented the USA in our global competition presented by Ralph de La Vega and JA Worldwide. Currently, she serves as CEO of EVO and has EVO to many top-ranking in regional competitions. She is also a competitive swimmer, having been recognized as an Academic All-District Swimming and Diving athlete. She is hoping to major in engineering.


Social media handles:

Instagram: @theevoteam


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Podcast Transcript

Kayla Awadin

Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.

Bryan: (00:00:23) Hi everyone, welcome to another episode of Asian Hustle Network today we have Kayla, welcome to the show.

Kayla: (00:00:32) Thank you for having me.

Bryan: (00:00:33) Kayla, tell us a little bit about yourself and away at all for our audience. Kayla is a high school senior. That’s doing remarkable things. But before I dive into that, I want to have her just talk about herself quickly. Go ahead, Kayla.

Kayla: (00:00:47)Β  Yes. Thank you. So, as you mentioned, I’m currently a senior at Elkins high school located in south Houston. And I’m going to be attending the University of Texas next year, majoring in chemical engineering a little bit about my background. I am Chinese Indonesian and I’m a first-generation Asian American.

So, my parents are originally from Indonesia and they moved down here to go to college ever since then. They’ve been living here and they raised my sister and me, so I’m the youngest of two.

Bryan: (00:01:16)That’s amazing and congratulations, and getting to a university and choosing that’s so exciting.

Kayla: (00:01:22) Thank you. I’m excited.

Bryan: (00:01:24) So, let’s talk about you being a former CMO of our number one ranked startup at nationals. What is that all about? What are nationals?

Kayla: (00:01:34) Okay, so I’ll give you a little bit of like a background about the program and the company. So, I’m part of a student-run company named Evo. It stands for Elkins Very Own, and essentially what it is.

It’s a program under the junior achievement company program. What junior achievement is, is that it’s a company that does a bunch of things, but more specifically, they run a program called company program, which is for high schools and they go to high schools and they allow students to come together and start their own business.

So, it’s an entrepreneurship club. So, I joined it my freshman year, following in my sister’s footsteps. She was in it. So, I was like, oh, let me join this club sounds cool. Joined high school, like, oh, I need to join a bunch of clubs, you know? So, join this club. Applied to be an officer. In my sophomore year became chief marketing officer, and then that year it was led by Alyssa Lee.

And we were all able to go all the way to the national competition. So essentially how you get to the national competition is you create a product every year based on a problem you’re witnessing in a community in your committee. So, the product we had designed that last, was the year 2019, 2020. So right before COVID hit, we had created a product called and what it was, it was a bamboo straw kit that was easily portable.

And our target demographic was high school college students specifically in our area because there’s a huge, large Asian community. And we love studying. I Boba place. So, we created Boba straws that had a pointed end and you can puncture them into your drinks. And it was a huge hit. We put them into these carrying cases that had ventilation holes, and you could easily throw them in your car, throw in your backpacks and they can be transported.

And then it would eliminate the amount of plastic waste that went into the garden. So, at the end of the year, you create a report of everything you did, and the top 15 companies in the whole nation going to go to nationals. That’s basically how we made it. And we competed at nationals. There was an online competition due to COVID and then we placed first.

It was truly a great experience. And like the officer team, that was a part of that, where you are so close-knit and it led like a group of high schoolers to become like literally family. And then like years falling. I was able to take over as CEO for the past two years and I’ve kind of continued. We made new products from there.Β 

Bryan: (00:04:00) That is remarkable. I mean, congratulations you guys in the first place. What is your opinion of the startup world that has gone through the experience? Is it hard? Is it difficult? Is it fun? Like, what is it like for you?

Kayla: (00:04:13) I think it’s fun like on believably fun. Yes. But it’s hard work. And I think it’s definitely if you’re not passionate about it, you shouldn’t do it because if you’re passionate about it, the work you do is going to feel less tiring. And more like, oh, I’m reaching for a goal. And at the end, when you’re putting all this work what you want and you have addition versus if you’re just doing it to do it and you don’t have like a passion for it, it’s going to feel like homework.

It’s going to feel like, why am I doing this? Like, I don’t even care to do. So, I think it’s definitely like the startup world is great because it lets people be creative. It lets you have freedom. And I think that’s, what’s so good about entrepreneurship, so I love it.

Bryan: (00:04:57) So awesome. That’s remarkable to hear, especially as a high school senior, I think compared to when I was a high school senior, my mentality was completely different. I mean, I don’t want to date myself, but, when I was growing up was like, we were asking the question, what is passion right? Because that’s a common word that’s always thrown around by quote-unquote adults at the time right. Got to follow your passion. You got to follow your dreams. Like what the heck is passion right. And I think the way you said it said is great. How about like, passion is defined as something, but doesn’t be like work being entrepreneurial myself. I can honestly say that’s true, but I also want to add one more thing to having passion means. You wake up with a sense of purpose, even though it doesn’t get any easier, you just feel like you need to do it because you have a cause or cause you to care about it right. So, I want to ask you the question about that is like, how did you discover that this was your passion, right? And like, how did you prep your mental mind state till I lead a team because being a leader is pretty difficult, right? Because people look good to you for guidance. People look at you for advice. People mean, right. So how did you develop your leadership abilities?

Kayla: (00:06:06) A hundred percent. I agree with you that people always look at you. I think going into this year, these past two years. I have grown my leadership skills, like tremendously through a high school club, which sounds silly, but it’s insane.

As the skills, I’ve taken away from that. And I think one of my biggest takeaways is that when times get hard in a company, they will always look to the leader and be like, what do we do next? There’s an issue. What do we do next? They’ll always turn to you. And so, you have to put on a face. Oh, yeah, I know what I’m doing.

It’s kind of like that fake it till you make it mentality. Because if you show like you’re scared or you’re clueless to your team, then your team will get that mindset. And then it’s down here downhill from there. Of course. So, you never want to give your team that perspective of, oh, we can’t do it because I think like there’s always a solution to the issue.

The best solution in the world. You’re always going to find an answer to your problem. And I think this year we’ve been faced with many problems, especially coming back, post-pandemic, working in person again, we’re faced with so many like issues, but as a leader, I learned, oh, I need to like, keep pushing show my team. oh, maybe you have an answer and we just have to take it step by step.

Bryan: (00:07:19) Yeah, remarkable, remarkable answers. I’m very impressed with your answers because this is probably an episode. Was it one 60 or whatever? In the Asian lesson that was podcasts. I talked to a lot of entrepreneurs on this podcast.

People who made billions of dollars, people change the world and your answer is top tier. I’m a little, I’m very taken back. Cause I’m very impressed with that. I’m like, wow, you guys, you guys give me a lot of hope for the future. And I hope, I hope you never, I hope we never stop right. I hope you never grind it out.

And I will hope that you pursue entrepreneurship in college as well. Like you don’t stop. Right. So, let’s quickly talk about college. What do, what do you hope to get out of college? What are your goals? What kind of experience do you want to get in college?

Kayla: (00:08:05) So of course, as I said, I’m waiting for the university of texas, majoring in engineering, but the way that being a part of this whole startup experience and learning and entrepreneurship, definitely affected my future, which I never saw like me in middle school.

I was like, oh, I’m stem-focused. So, a little bit about my background is when I was younger, my mom put me in a bunch of extra credit. And it’s a huge blessing that she was able to do. So, and I got to try out a bunch of different things, learn about my interests and business was just really not one of them ever.

I was a huge nerd. Still love math class. Like I hate to say it, but I love math class. That’s why I majored in engineering. And then my mom would even put me in extra tutoring classes because I would always want to get ahead in my math class. I’d always help my friends with them, but then being a part of the junior achievement, this whole startup program, grew a passion for business and entrepreneurship is so cool because as I said, it gives you freedom and it gives you creativity.

And it shows like, oh, if you put in this hard work, it will show and you’ll get results from it. And your work does have an outcome. So, it has affected me because I want to minor in business. I’m not completely sure what field I want to be in, but I know there’s a huge entrepreneurship program at UT as long as they have McCombs, and their business school is very prestigious.

So, I’m looking forward maybe to getting a minor in business management, not completely sure, but it has shaped my future outlook and my career.

Bryan: (00:09:32)Β  I can’t wait to check in with you in about a couple of years to see what amazing things you’re working on. And out of curiosity, how supported have your parents been with this right? And to give our listeners more perspective, I’m probably dealt with. And when I was going to school, my parents only gave me three options, right. Become an engineer, become a doctor, become a lawyer right. And I just want to hear like what, like, it’s like a lot of my curiosity. What is the expectation now right? I wonder what parents are teaching their kids now that are we still required to be a doctor’s lawyer. Or are we looser and be like, okay, like you could pursue anything that you want to do in life. How have your parents supported you along the way?

Kayla: (00:10:18) My parents have truly been my number one supporter in this, it takes up so much time outside of school. And it was a whole closet in my house with boxes of like inventory of like old things, just like company products. And they have number one a quarter. They used to, whenever before I, had my license, they would always like drive us to Houston, to all these competitions, all these meetings. And I think they just love seeing that.

I found a passion that I truly enjoy and working with the individuals that are on the officer board with me, they’ve truly become like a second family to me. And they’re such good friends because they’re also high school students who are past. About the same thing you are. So not only are you living like that high school life together, you’re on that same goal, and you have the same mission.

So, with that, my parents see how much joy I have just getting to be creative and getting to run a company. So, they have been so supportive in this. And they’re excited to learn that I’ve expanded my interest beyond just math and science. Then now I want to join the business field because I think truly like any parent, they just want to see their kids. Be happy with what they’re doing. And I think happiness in what you’re doing will lead to eventual success.

Bryan: (00:11:37) I couldn’t agree with that more, right. I like the fact that you mentioned that as long as you’re happy, it will lead to eventual success. That is very, very true right. I feel like nowadays I feel like it’s so easy for us to fall into the path of instant gratification where it’s like, I want it now if Amazon prime, like ordering door dash now, right?

You’re right. Success does take a lot. Sometimes it’s not overnight, right. It takes years and years of discipline and action. And this is the part where I want to focus on myself. Right? How’d you learn about like goal setting like setting expectations for yourself and like learning to visualize what success even looks like?

That is pretty advanced stuff right. And I want to hear how you develop those abilities. Was this something that was taught to you by your parents? School peers? Or your own. Self-interest where you’re like, okay. Like I need to, this is how I improve myself. I need to learn about these things. I want to focus the next part of the podcast on yourself.

Kayla: (00:12:37) I think my like organization and just my goal setting have influenced my parents while growing up. They always kept me on a path of what I’m focused on and in high school, they left me being more independent. So, there I was set to kind of have an organized schedule of what I wanted to do.

I knew taking on the responsibility of coming CEO of this company. Have to have me balance school life, and balance running a company. And on top of that, still have a social life because it’s four years of high school and life, and I still want to be a teenager. So, I’m able to see oh, if I need to delegate tasks to people and I’ll do so I’m able to see like, oh, I need to take a step back.

I need to enjoy my time and go hang out with my friends because. I don’t always need to be doing work, work, work, work, work, or I need to focus on schoolwork. I have a test coming up. So, I think it’s just like a great deal of like stepping back and seeing like, oh, I need to balance out my life or else.

You’re just going to feel more stressed and more unorganized if you don’t bounce it out. But yeah.

Bryan: (00:13:45) Those are really good answers. Again, you’re very impressive and very impressive for me to hear. It’s very refreshing to hear your perspectives too, but as you mentioned earlier, right, you want to still want to imbalance the teamwork and be a normal teenager.

Talk about those challenges to me. Like why has it been so challenging, have your friends supported you? Who do you talk to you when you’re running into trouble? Do you have mentors? I want to hear about that perspective.

Kayla: (00:14:11) Okay. So just the balance between being a teenager and running a company. I think my friends have been so supportive.

They also like my parents; they see how passionate I am about JIA and running Evo. So, they’ll understand like, oh, I have a business call or I need to work on the rapport and things like that. So, they’re so supportive of it. And they’re always wanting to learn about what I’m working on. They love learning about what our company is working on next, and what events we have.

So truly like being surrounded by a great group of friends that understands and is willing to like, learn about what you’re passionate about has, uh, has motivated me to work on it even more because I don’t feel like they’re neglecting me for always like being busy sometimes because they understand and they see it as well as like mentoring.Β 

I think the biggest one of them was Ms. Tania Daniels, who is the head of the company program at Southeast Texas. She is like a second mother. She is always reminding me of what I need to do and helping me out. She’ll like to answer my text at any time of the day. And she’s provided so many opportunities and like guided me along with them.

She always has the company first in mind. Like interest in hand and she’s very considerate about them. And she’s like told us how to balance it all. And just being surrounded by like her energy for like these past four years has played a part in the success of this company and my growth as a leader, I think.

Just an influence is the people who you work with. The CEO of Evo is her name is Ariana. And she, I worked alongside her for three years now and we truly balance each other out so well, we’re so understanding of whether one of us has to step back because we’re busy and we kind of like pick up the pieces of each other.

So, I think just finding. A group of teammates who work well with you, we’re supportive of you who are understanding. And it doesn’t feel like a competition between the team is definitely like very important.

Bryan: (00:16:16) That’s amazing. And shout out to Tanya as well. I think she was the one that was like, Hey, like your views on my star students.

I’m like. Tanya will love to have them on the show. This is an Asian Hustle Network podcast after all. And we like to hear all perspectives of the past, present, and features. And obviously, you are right. Part of the feature. So, walk us through a day in the life of a CMO and CEO, right? What kind of business meetings do you take?

How do you navigate your meetings? I mean, for us that are in a working, working world. We know that in most meetings, we don’t need meetings, always like, okay, like there’s no respect. There’s no point to that. There are no perspectives out. There’s sometimes. There’s no reason to even have a meeting just to have a meeting right. So, I want to hear about like your dating life and like, how do you run your meetings too? Because I think that can give a lot of perspective to other high schoolers who are listening to this podcast right now.

Kayla: (00:17:08) I think it’s very different. I don’t know how it is running in the corporate world, but I think the high school experience of running a business is very unique in its way.

And it’s very different and maybe like funny to some people. Sometimes during class, I will pull out my laptop and I’ll be responding to emails in the middle of calc class. And it’s funny because my peers will be looking over my shoulder and they’ll be like, what is she doing? I’m like, oh, I’m responding to an email because it’s not, it’s not common for like high schoolers to be experienced in this, which is like a huge blessing.

That’s like one of the things for like business meetings, how our company runs is that we have business meetings once a week for a couple of hours. Sometimes there’ll be on a zoom depending on how busy everyone’s schedule is like all the tests and schoolwork coming up. And sometimes it’ll be in more in person if we have more time.

So that like shows oh, we’re still high school students. We’re still super busy. So, we have to like manage it with all our schedules, but how will the business meetings work there? Everyone is assigned a role. And so, in our company, we currently have eight officers. There is a secretary of treasure, and then there are six chief officers.

So, there’s, I’m the CEO, there’s a COO. And then there’s a finance supply chain marketing. And then we also have a special position called the chief ideas officer. And she is Joyce is her name. She is a bowl full of ideas. Like she will sit there and just think of 10 million ideas. And it is incredible what her mind thinks of.

It makes our team just work so well with all these different positions. So, I’ll kind of delegate tasks. There’ll be people in charge of social media, talk to the supply chain, and we kind of just run it slowly throughout the year and the game of the year from like August to. September October, we’ll come up with our product, we’ll talk to manufacturers and then we’ll start production.

From there. We get the money. We start production till about January, February, when we launch and then we launch a product and it goes on for about the whole year, until June when a company liquidates. So, what’s also interesting. A part of this is that every year, our company liquidates, and then in August, we start right back over again.

Oftentimes it’s with people who repeat positions, so there’ll be expecting. But they have to start all over again, think of a new idea, a new product, which I think gives you practice on your entrepreneurship skills just because you’re going to have to be creative again. And it starts back over and it kind of like builds a mentality of what entrepreneurship is rather than just like doing it once and be kind of like, I don’t know, like the habit is the right word to use, but that’s kind of what it is.

Yeah. And you’re not wrong with that too.

Bryan: (00:19:40) I like the fact that you guys start from scratch every year before. Being in business we’re past so many years. Now I can honestly say that every year is a new challenge because you’re dealing with changing landscapes right. Whereas the first year was trying to find product-market fit.

In the second gear, you’d probably dealing with a global pandemic where supply chains, issues, increased prices of everything, right? And the following year, you have new copper competitors who do things better than you because of as human nature. It’s like, you get, people get bored of the same product.

They use it the same over and over, right. So, you always have to constantly innovate and then you have to, now you have to incorporate the emergence of new technologies. I say how to web three metaphors, all these big terms, entities are like, okay, like how does that incorporate to your business to make sense?

Right. So, I think with that strategy of like, you guys essentially, starting fresh every year and like brainstorming as pre parallel to the startup wall in some ways, because every year we have the end of the year call with our team, it’s like, okay, like what can we do better, right. With a continuous improvement mindset.

So, Kayla, we have one. The final question to the podcast. And the question is, what advice would you give to another high schooler who wants to pursue entrepreneurship and high school? I want to see what I want to hear, and what your answers are.

Kayla: (00:21:00) I would say, oh, 100%, like do it. It’s such a good experience and it just allows you to. Create and express yourself and you’re in high school now’s the time to try stuff out and learn what you’re passionate about. I think even like I’ve heard from people like, even in college, like that’s your time to try stuff out. You haven’t really like hit the complete we’re real-world in a sense.

So, as you should, you’re young, and you can still keep trying stuff out. And I think in high school, you’re going to do it. You have to know though if you want. To work out. Well, you got to be as passionate about it. You got to work hard and you got to be ready to balance that work-life and your entrepreneurship and your schoolwork and everything like that.

So, it’s a hundred percent worth it, but you just got to be like ready for the path. That’s going to take you on.

Bryan: (00:21:48) Absolutely. That’s a really good answer. And so how can our listeners and fellow high-schoolers reach out to you online?

Kayla: (00:21:55) So, our company’s Instagram is on the Evo team. It’s so T H E V O T E A M. And then you can contact us through there and you can like DMS on there and I’ll be sure to check it and respond. And that’s honestly our best way. Our website is the Evo team.com with no w or anything, just type in vivo team at calm. And you can check out more of our company story on there. We have a short blog.

That tells you about our year-long, like big events that happen throughout the year. And you can read about the officers there and also shop for our products.

Bryan: (00:22:27) Awesome. Thank you so much, Kayla, for being on the podcast today. You’re a true inspiration, it gives me a lot of hope for the future. Thank you so much.

Kayla: (00:22:36) Thank you so much for having me, it’s so much fun.