At Mount Vernon, we believe children have big ideas, and when teachers really know their students’ curiosities and passions, incredible things can happen. Incredible things like starting businesses, creating non-profit organizations, and launching new products. Although there are countless stories daily that reflect student ingenuity, we wanted to spotlight a few examples of MV students who launched their own enterprises right here, while at Mount Vernon.

Beautiful Curly Me founded by Ona Oli, Class of 2029

Founded in 2019, Ona Oli (a Lower School student at the time) launched Beautiful Curly Me, a brand with one goal in mind: to encourage young girls to love themselves and be confident in who they are. Her business came from identifying a problem that needed to be solved. This principle is taught every day here at Mount Vernon. Her path to purpose started at age six. She and her mother realized people of color were not fully represented in children’s books or toys. Ona envisioned her own brand that would include dolls with beautiful curly hair and brown skin and books filled with affirmations to help little girls feel confident in themselves. After 4 years in business, Ona’s products are distributed on her website, Amazon, Flourish, Maisonette, and more. Her business and philanthropy efforts have been featured by Good Morning America, People Magazine, The Kelly Clarkson Show, and media outlets throughout Atlanta and the Country. Just last month, Ona did a TedTalk where she spoke about her journey so far as well as her goals for the future.

“Through this journey, I have gone from not liking my hair to embracing my curls. And beyond that, loving who I am inside and out. With every doll I create or book I write, I am able to show another little girl it is possible to do anything she sets out to do.”
-Ona Oli

Fantasy founded by Sam Hodges, Class of 2023

With a passion for graphic design and after forming a skateboarding group with a few friends, Sam developed a business idea. How might I create an exclusive high-quality streetwear brand of originally-designed, screen-printed T-shirts that are comfortable and durable enough to wear while walking or skating around town? (That was three years ago) Discovering first-hand that relationships are foundational for learning and for business success, Sam built relationships with teachers at Mount Vernon and small business owners across the world which helped him throughout the branding, marketing, and product development stages. Upper School Visual Arts Teacher Mariana Depetris helped jumpstart his production process by teaching him how to screenprint. Other small business owners (now friends) helped Sam plan his brand release and understand the best way to sell his products. Through these conversations, he was able to get input on production restraints and supply and demand resulting in Sam opening his store temporarily last spring, receiving orders, and closing it to fill them. “When you are setting up a brand like this, you can do it as I did by setting up the shop and then closing it after orders come in so I know how many materials to buy. Or you can keep it open and spend a bunch of money buying in bulk when you don’t really have the demand yet. The way I did it, I had the demand already and I was able to supply it.” Follow Fantasy’s Instagram for new designs and store reopening dates coming this spring

Collins Classic Charities Corporation founded by Collin Maher, Class of 2025

Collin Maher leveraged his love of running and charitable spirit to organize a Peachtree Road Race qualifying event called The Cocoa Classic 5K. On February 18, 2023, hundreds of runners will gather here at Mount Vernon to run or walk 3.1 miles around Sandy Springs. Throughout Collin’s event-planning journey, he has developed relationships with the City of Sandy Springs to secure permits for road closures and support from police and EMT staff on the day of the event. He partnered with Raceworks, a race production company, to ensure the Cocoa Class is the event is a USATF-certified loop course and Peachtree Road Race qualifier. Proceeds from the race will benefit Shoes that Fit, a non-profit organization, to benefit Lakeforest Elementary School students who are in need of new athletic shoes. The Made in MV Podcast featured Collin’s story in a recent episode capturing the details behind what it takes to organizing this charitable event, listen here. To sign up for the Cocoa Classic register on his site.

“I am excited for the race and all the ways it can make a positive impact and increase well-being. I know the impact good shoes can make when it comes to my own running, so being able to work with Shoes that Fit and direct some of those donations to kids at the Lakeforest Elementary School brings even more meaning to this project.”
-Collin Maher, Class of 2025

Masduck founded by Maddy Strudwick, Class of 2022
The company Maddy founded, promotes the product QUACK! and encourages users to utilize communication to solve problems. QUACK!’s motto? Talk to the duck. Get unstuck. Read her story here.

YOUniversity Planning Survival Guide author, Mia Whitney, Class of 2017
During her Sophomore year, Mia’s older brother was in the midst of his college tour process and she tagged along and helped with taking notes on each school. She saw firsthand the need to be prepared as well as organized to make the most of these campus visits. This experience sparked the project of designing a solution for keeping the college planning process more organized.

By working with College Counselor Dr. Erin McCubbin, Mia incorporated the most important things to look for while researching schools: Academics, Social Life, Facilities, Safety, and more. Within each of these categories, students could give each a star rating and write notes about the programs. Mia went through many iterations before she officially published it on Amazon during her senior year.

The YOUniversity Planner is designed to encourage organization when students are experiencing their college search process offering a unique way to record notes and ultimately empowering users to make the most informed decisions for their future. The product also provides aids including a mini-dictionary, User Profile, and calendar. Every American college and university is listed according to state.

Since Mia graduated from Mount Vernon, the experience of developing and bringing this product to market has positively impacted her life. “Even when I was applying to medical school, I was still talking about this project. It was something that I had worked on for years and saw through until the end. I could talk about it in interviews when they asked me ‘What was something you put your head down and completed?’ Or ‘What is something you are proud of?’ or ‘When was a time you helped people around you?’ Mia explained.

When student curiosities and passions are paired with design-thinking skills, access to diverse social networks, and the confidence to see their efforts through to a final product, incredibly impactful things will happen.