July 5, 2024

HireSmart Cares U.S. Career Assistance — Westlynn’s Story 

Westlynn Epps sees local moms wearing her earrings and their children wearing her T-shirts. 

"I see my earrings a lot, especially at football games," said the rising junior, who serves on the Madison County athletic training team, putting tape on ankles and wrists during games. 

Epps' business is called "Works By Westlynn," and the Danielsville resident, who swims competitively, finds time in her busy schedule to make designs with her "Cricut" machine to sell locally. 

"I got good at making stuff, and then I just started selling to the neighbors up and down the street," she said. "And then they were like, 'Oh, this is cool. I want some more.' So that's how I started. I've been selling for about two-and-a-half years, but I really got into it in the last year." 

Epps will have the opportunity to up her sales now that she's secured a grant from HireSmart Cares for $1,500 after winning the MadiCo Makers Student Entrepreneur Program's first-place prize in the recent Shark Tank competition, where young entrepreneurs made a business pitch to judges. The funds will help her buy materials for her products. 

Under the guidance of MCHS business and computer science teacher Jessica Lonon, students developed a business plan. Then, they presented their ideas to judges at the end of the school year. Shea Cain and Joseph Toole won second and third place and qualified for grants from HireSmart of $1,000 and $500 to put toward their businesses. 

Epps plans to attend either the University of Georgia or Emmanuel University to study nursing, while also swimming at the college level. She's been swimming competitively for nine years and wakes early each morning to practice in Athens. 

The daughter of Jake and Christy Epps wants to be a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse. She was inspired to join that profession after seeing her little brother, Hank, in the NICU after his birth. Or, she may pursue a career in sports therapy. 

Works By Westlynn is a "side hustle," the rising junior said. Her pitch to the Shark Tank judges focused on her local focus. 

"I went into the presentation, and I was like, okay, 'Madison County, Madison County, Madison County,'" she said, adding that she spends time contemplating what local people want. 

Epps said the Circut machine can be tricky. 

"There are these little blades, and when it makes one wrong mistake, it'll drag the whole design apart," she said. "And so then you got to take it off and reload it and try it again." 

She added that the software platform, Cricut Design Space, is also difficult to use.  

"It's kind of just like a big canvas, but it's on the computer," she said. "You got to separate your layers, separate your colors, put everything together, size it, and separate it again to make sure everything's in the right place, then you can cut it and put it back together. So it's a long, frustrating process." 

Epps said many people have Cricut machines, but they get frustrated and "are just like, that's it. I'm done. I'm not using this anymore." 

"So the people that have figured out how to use them are the ones making the money," she said. "I think once more people realize it's not as complicated as it seems, they are going to start using everyone else's ideas and putting them into their ideas. That's how it's going to grow." 

Epps said succeeding is about anticipating others' wants and needs and being early with an answer. 

"You have to always be thinking ahead," she said. "What's going to be the next trend?" 

HireSmart Cares focuses on helping youth like Epps succeed as entrepreneurs, farmers, tradespeople, and in other professional services. HireSmart provides grants, scholarships, and funding for skill development programs, as well as classroom interactions to help youth think through getting a job, managing personal finances, and starting their own businesses. 

If you have a proposal for a HireSmart grant or other funding initiative that will help youth develop skills that could lead to careers, contact us at info@hiresmartcares.org. To learn more about HireSmart Cares, click here. To support young entrepreneurs like Westlynn, click here. 

Article written by Anne Lackey