In just nine months running her customised key ring business, Jess Tresidder has made close to $30,000, employed a young mum to help manage orders, and navigated tax and superannuation with the help of her dad.

The 17-year-old was hesitant to commercialise her hobby at first.

The business side did not daunt her so much. She had already run one before, a social media management business she started at age 14 to manage multiple beauty and wellbeing accounts.

“That was going really well until COVID hit and it kind of died off,” Jess said.

The customer service side was not an issue either. Jess had been at Red Rooster since February 2020 and was even named the company’s national crew member of the quarter for her impressive sales.

Serving chicken and chips is work. Her key rings, on the other hand, are a little labour of love, made on a $200 machine at home, are gifts.

A clear glass circle with the name 'Naomi' printed on in pink, attached to a tassel and key ring.

A customised key ring made by Jess Tresidder.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

She gave them to friends and the Department of Child Protection in Mount Gambier, in her hometown on South Australia’s Limestone Coast.

“From prior experience, I knew that especially foster children in the area, particularly teens, they were often overlooked in the system,” Jess said.

“A lot of them were getting licences, so I thought it would be cool if they could have something personalised for them.”

When one of those happy recipients urged Jess to sell the key rings online, she eventually decided to “give it a crack”.

Despite Wild Hazel Designs’ rapid commercial success, Jess has continued to look for ways to support others — like hiring a customer who lost their job during COVID.

Starting the business

Jess advertised the personalised key rings on Etsy, an American company specialising in homemade and vintage items, in February. Three weeks later she was a bestseller.

“I don’t even know how the word got out,” Jess said.

Having run social media accounts before, she knew the value of marketing.

She decided to pay a couple of dollars a day to get her product higher in the search results and used keywords like “gifts” and “bridesmaids”.

In one week she could receive 85 orders.

A blue machine with a sticker on it saying 'Hazel Designs'.

This is the first machine Jess made her key rings on. (ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

“It got to a certain point where I was staying up past my bedtime and waking up earlier to [make the orders].

“Because I was doing so much you could start to recognise burnout. I have burnt out before and it’s not great.

“I didn’t have time to do the things I enjoy doing. It was work, work, work, school.”

She realised she needed to hire someone. First it was her dad, then her brother.

Then Rachel, a customer who mentioned she had just lost her job.

“You have to manage the pay, superannuation, all this stuff. I didn’t know anything about that. So I’ve got my dad to help me out with that,” Jess said.

A teenage girl smiles holding a bundle of envelopes

Jess with her first key ring orders for customers in February 2021.(Supplied: Jess Tresidder)

“It’s been good. She’s lovely. She’s so helpful … She just worked until she went on maternity leave.”

A lot of people have asked why Jess keeps working at Red Rooster when she does not need the money.

“I get to socialise, I have lots of friends there. I love interacting with their customers; I have favourites,” Jess said.

The skills are not wasted either.

A young woman wearing a red and white checkered shirt and black Red Rooster cap stands in front of a Red Rooster sign.

Jess continues to work at Red Rooster for the customer interactions and social benefit.(Supplied: Jess Tresidder)

“Beforehand I was so anxious; I hated talking to people.

“Even if the business wasn’t successful, I think just talking to other people; there are skills that are so useful.”

Not in it for the money

Jess sees herself in business or marketing in the future.

“I’ve found that I’m not very good at things that are repetitive,” Jess said.

She admires and follows businesses that make a difference.

“It’s always been important to me to give,” Jess said.

A teenage girl with blonde hair wearing a knitted jumper leans against a rotunda rail laughing.

Jess wants to be involved in projects that support vulnerable people.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Her immediate plans are to just get through — and ideally enjoy — Year 12 in 2022.

“I think managing my time, managing my priorities … spending less time on my phone,” Jess said.

“[And] spending more time with the people around me, but intentionally. Go out for breakfast or go to the beach.

“A lot of people can just study, study, study, study, work, work, study, study, study.”

‘It was work, work, work, school’: How Jess is navigating her small business success
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