Fifteen-year-old CEO to head to America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.

Updated: 06/09/2014 6:11 PM
Created: 06/09/2014 3:51 PM WHEC.com
By: Janet Lomax

He is only 15-years-old and already the CEO of his own company. Riley Benner, of Phoenix Haberdashery, is packing his bags and will soon pitch his reversible tie business to experts in Washington, D.C.

News10NBC has been following Benner and other young students, who are a part of YEA! Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Last month, Benner and his class partner, Luke Zaremski, competed and won the Northeast Regional Saunders Competition, earning them the right to head to D.C. One reason this business stands out could be the approach.

Now that his school year is over--Benner, a junior at McQuaid is still working, busy overseeing his reversible tie business, Phoenix Haberdashery.  Benner and Gina Marzano, who helps his sewers, stop by to check on Nang Maung, one of the three people who sews the ties. Maung and her family are refugees from Burma. When Benner started his company, he did not want to send the ties to be made by a company or overseas. He wanted to make a difference in people's lives.

Riley Benner said, "We looked through refugee outreach centers in Rochester and we found Mary's Place."

They also found excellent seamstresses like Maung, who came to America to make a better life for her family. Her 15-year-old boss pays $10 an hour. 

Benner and his class partner, McQuaid student, Luke Zaremski recently competed and won in the YEA! Saunders Scholars Northeast Semi-Finals competition in Rochester. Now, as finalists, they head to Washington, D.C. to compete at America's Small Business Summit. They'll make one last pitch to experts there, competing for thousands of dollars in college scholarships and a chance to audition for the TV show, "Shark Tank". 

Benner says this time last year; he was at home, on the couch, trying to find things to do. 

Benner said, "It's just as amazing for me to think that's what I was doing last summer, just a regular kid, just sitting at home and now I'm going to be at the America's Small Business Summit. Words can't describe it."

When they return, Phoenix Haberdashery will officially launch its reversible ties, priced at $35 and $100 at Parkleigh on Saturday June 14. 

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