Making a go of it
Three young OHS grads test their money-making mettle

By Ryan Billingham - Enterprise Staff

April 17, 2014

OCONOMOWOC - Imagine graduating high school in 2009. The economy is in recession, the unemployment rate is high and an uncertain economic outlook upon college graduation looms.

Three Oconomowoc High School graduates faced that situation five years ago. Despite the gloomy outlook, the trio decided the way to success exists outside someone else’s office or inside a corporate cubicle.

Amy Keppeler, Bryce Satterfield and Trevor Marks are part of the so-called millenials, or 18 to 34-year-olds, and have made a risky decision: to become small-business owners.

Research indicates the millennials have a thirst for entrepreneurism. In a 2011 survey conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit firm that tracks U.S. entrepreneurship, 54 percent of young people either want to start a business or have already started one.

That same survey cites the hurdles that often foil their dreams - lack of credit for capital, a lousy economy and existing debt.

Despite the challenges, the three classmates are charging forward. One just opened her own apparel and home furnishings boutique another has been an entrepreneur since he was 12, and the third is cruising to success with a unique business model.

 

The owl

Amy Keppeler opened The Barn Owl in Delafield on Friday. Since then, she says business has been good and that she’ll “be able to pay her rent this month.”

The Barn Owl, 727 Genesee St., features a mix of apparel and home furnishings. Keppeler’s concept was inspired partly by her love of the store Anthropologie, but she said it distinguishes itself through her unique aesthetic.

 

Amy Keppeler
Photo submitted

She feels The Barn Owl invokes both rustic and fashion-forward themes and added that the owl is symbolic of her spreading her wings and taking on the new venture.

Keppeler grew up mostly in Oconomowoc, but chose Delafield because she felt the location was perfect for what she wants to accomplish. She doesn’t rule out other locations if her first store is a success.

After graduating from OHS, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout, studying at first apparel design then transferring to retail and merchandising management.

 

Amy Keppeler in her new Delafield store The Barn Owl. She and OHS Class of 2009 classmates Trevor Marks and Bryce Satterfield are all young small-business owners.
Charles Auer/Enterprise Staff

She worked as a management intern and a corporate intern, and although she gained valuable experience she always knew she wanted to be her own boss.

“I had been job searching for a couple months after graduation. It was right after Christmas when I decided I am just going to go for it,” she said. “Everyone around me was being supportive about the idea.”

Amy Keppeler outside her new Delafield store The Barn Owl.
Charles Auer/Enterprise Staff

The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, visit www.thebarnowlboutique.com for more information.

 

The natural

Residents of Oconomowoc may have first met Bryce Satterfield as a kid with a clipboard. When he was 12, he began brainstorming ideas about how to make money. Soon after, he was tromping around his neighborhood signing up neighbors for a lawn mowing program.

Bryce Satterfield   
Photo submitted

“Since then, the business has grown quickly, servicing many communities and providing full property maintenance and landscape architecture solutions,” Satterfield said.

In his senior year of high school, Satterfield applied for and won a $40,000 McKelvey Entrepreneurial Scholarship for his business and was recognized through an award as one of the top 60 young entrepreneurs of 2009.

At age 19, Satterfield launched another business called Bryce Satterfield Rentals, a real estate investing firm.

“Year after year, BSR has grown as well by buying and leasing property. BSR also handles property management solutions,” he said.

Satterfield’s businesses have been voted in the top of Intuit’s “most loved businesses,” and have won other awards. He said these accomplishments were achieved while attending college full time.

At 21, Satterfield was recognized by Empact100, a compilation of the top entrepreneurs and companies in the U.S. age 30 years and under with revenues over $100,000.

In fall 2012, Satterfield was recognized by President Barack Obama for meeting with his administration regarding business insights and youth perspectives. 

In December 2012, Satterfield graduated from college in six semesters with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Satterfield’s property maintenance and landscaping business has grown to 12 employees and hundreds of clients throughout the area.

For more information on both of Satterfield’s endeavors visit www.bryceslawnservice.com and www.brycesatterfieldrentals.com.

 

The salesman

Trevor Marks began his entrepreneurism in college running a summer exterior painting business.

Now, he’s taking it to another level, involving his brother and father as business partners and including interior painting services.

He and best friend Satterfield often marketed together, Marks driving while Satterfield rode shotgun and distributed leaflets and pamphlets.

Trevor Marks, bottom left, books and organizes bus trips through his Party by Bus venture.This crew seen here is headed to a Jimmy Buffet concert.
Photo submitted

Marks studied marketing and sales at both UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater.

He said he’d consider a sales or marketing job, he’s on LinkedIn and has had several offers, but right now being his own boss suits him and he’s doing well.

Two summers ago he organized a bus trip to Alpine Valley after a sour experience having to shell out additional money on a bus trip to a Jimmy Buffett concert.

“The person running it didn’t have enough money to pay for the bus to get back home,” he said.

He decided to organize the trip the following year, essentially acting as a booking agent, and the event was a success. His friends encouraged him to expand the trips and Party by Bus was born.

Party By Bus books trips to Brewers games, bachelor and bachelorette parties, 21st birthdays and much more.

“It provides a safe environment for people to have fun,” he said.

Marks said he’s looking to the future and would like to develop an app that would make the party bus business easier for groups. And now with several years experience in the house painting business he’s excited for the summer.

“It’s great for me,” he said. “The harder you work the more you make and the hours are flexible.”

For more information on his party bus business visit its Facebook page.

Email: rbillingham@conleynet.com