Photo Courtesy of Omi & Friends

Paradise Valley High School student Gia Saggar is a senior studying bioscience at the Center for Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST). She’s also a young entrepreneur helping others. Below, she chats about how she turned her brand concept into a reality.

During your CREST STEM Collaborative class, you came up with the idea of Omi & Friendz, a Mindful Buddiez collection; however, your class project team decided to go in a different direction. How did you persevere in turning your idea into a reality?

Mindfulness practices are becoming more common; however, many people (especially my age) still struggle to understand its concepts. Instead of taking rejection to heart, I thought about how I could better convey my passion and create a kid-friendly product.

So, how does Omni & Friendz help children?

With stress and anxiety on the rise, teenagers like myself can become overwhelmed with school, extracurriculars, and our social demands. I created Omi & Friendz because these cuddly stuffed toys introduce kids to awareness of the breath, emotional recognition skills, and a positive mindset in a way a child can relate to. Kids feel comfort in the practice and have something tangible to help them when they need a calm down moment, and Omi the Elephant is an effective tool to help kids develop mindfulness concepts.

The idea was even recognized by the National Society of High School Scholars BE MORE Grant. As a grant winner, you received $10,000. How did that impact your journey?

Being selected as a winner of the BE MORE Grant was a great honor as it validated my efforts and desire to make the world a better and more equitable place. Presenting my project to a panel of judges and seeing their positive responses gave me instant motivation. I was more convinced I needed to continue building the Omi & Friendz Brand and bring mindfulness into the lives of young children. I have already put the grant funds to good use and have increased inventory. I have also prioritized giving back to my community. We donated Omi’s to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Arizona Foster Care, and social workers at local elementary schools.

As an entrepreneur, what was your process from the initial concept of Omi & Friendz to developing the product and selling your product to the masses?

The process began with a simple prototype. From there, I was grateful to have a family member get me in touch with a toy manufacturer. We created several samples and eventually found the perfect design for Omi the Elephant. From there, I borrowed and raised funds to make my first batch of 500 elephants. I built a website and reached out to several social media influencers to spread my product. Within a few months, I was sold out! This was proof of concept for me, and I used all the funds collected to order a second batch.

What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs who may not know where to start?

If you are unsure where to start, remain true to your passions and, ultimately, what you believe to be your true north. With this, you will be driven to find the answers and solutions to your ideas…

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