One of the unexpected positives to arise from the pandemic is the timely springing into action of Punahou’s young entrepreneurs through Students for PunsUnited. Janelle Ramos ’22 is among the Academy and Junior School students who helped lead the initiative to raise funds for financial aid.
Conceptualized last summer through the Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship (CASE), Ramos and others crafted products to sell on the House of Mana Up website. The students then donated profits from their online sales to support emergency financial aid for Punahou families economically impacted by COVID-19. “Because the virus has been affecting a lot of people, we had the mindset that we can’t just sit back and do nothing,” Ramos said. “So we used the entrepreneurship spirit we had on campus, and put it to good use.”
Students for PunsUnited was a perfect fit for Ramos, allowing her to utilize her entrepreneurial savvy, already honed from a successful sticker business she launched shortly before she got involved with the Mana Up project. Ramos’ sticker startup, Demi Art Hawaii, offers custom-designed stickers for small retailers and artisans wanting to brand and decorate their own goods. Its name stems from the French word for “half,” since it’s “half my design and half their design,” Ramos said. “It’s a collaboration.”
Ramos decided on stickers because they are easy to mass produce. And truly an endeavor of the social media age, she found clients to work with on Instagram. Within the first few months of starting the business – at the peak of her production – she was making $1,000 a month. She’s making less now that she’s back at school, but as of early November, she’s sold over 1,000 stickers to dozens of clients in 38 states and five countries. “She’s got that chutzpah and stick-to-it-ness, and she’s not afraid to try stuff,” said Mark Loughridge, director of the CASE program. “All these skills she’s learning now are so applicable to whatever challenges she pursues in future years. She can run companies with this. She can help nonprofits get to a new level. She’s already achieved success around the globe with her original work.”
As part of her contribution to Students for PunsUnited, Ramos created and led workshops in marketing, brand storytelling and pricing. She also sold specially designed Punahou stickers. But financial aid isn’t the only target for her charity. Since Demi Art’s inception, Ramos has set aside 20% of her profits to purchase school supplies for a rural school in the Philippines, where her uncle is the principal.
Helping the school is something dear to her heart. While visiting extended family in the Philippines, one vivid experience left an indelible memory. “On the last day of school, my mom came to the classroom and handed everyone school supplies,” said Ramos, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. “Seeing the students’ faces stuck with me, even now. I just want to give someone else that smile and recreate that. If giving something as simple as school supplies would give someone a better shot at getting a good education and improving their life, then I’ll do it.”
If there’s one to watch in terms of socially conscious entrepreneurship, Loughridge says it’s Ramos, who’s also involved with Punahou’s Coding for Social Change initiative and other activities through the student-driven Entrepreneurship Hub. “It’s rare for people to be able to build a career around their own creativity that also supports larger causes,” he said. “It’s so impressive that Janelle has met with success that way at such an early age. My one wish for her is to keep doing what she’s doing. It’s magic.”
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