On a cold January morning in a Michigan high school, about 1,300 students shuffle in for the assembly speaker. The air is thick with a mixture of sleepiness & boredom, the kind that only a room full of teenagers can really muster.
They’re back from Christmas break and only just starting to reacclimate to classes & homework. They do not want to be here.
It’s the textbook definition of "playing to a tough room.”
When the featured speaker comes out, she is full of energy & life. She’s the same age as many of the students at this assembly. She looks just like them, and she’s here to talk to them about big dreams.
Still…these kids don’t know her.
They don’t know that she had to get special permission from her principal to miss a day of school. They don’t know that she just took four midterm exams the day prior to make up for the time missed. They don’t know that she hopped on a flight from her hometown of Buffalo, NY just to be there with them, or that she will be flying back in less than 24 hours.
What’s this speaker going to say that hasn’t been done to death at a hundred other “motivational” assemblies?
“Hey guys!” she starts the talk, holding up her phone. “I’m snapping right now. Want to say hi?”
In two seconds flat, this disinterested crowd of over 1,000 teens is on its feet, cheering & hooting & waving. And a short time later, the speaker, 15 year old Zandra Cunningham, has convinced members of the audience to stand up and talk about their big dreams in front of their peers.
Think about that for a second.
With a spirit of positivity & confidence, Zandra is getting teenagers to stand up in front of 1,000 of their peers & talk about something they would rarely admit in public. Something personal. Something intimate. Something vulnerable.
You could say that it’s Zandra’s superpower. And every heroine has an origin story.
"No" Was Only the Beginning
When she was 9 years old, Zandra Cunningham was obsessed with lip balm. It was the closest thing to make-up that her parents would allow.
Nearly every day as her dad headed off to work, Zandra would ask him to buy her another lip balm. Day after day…after day.
One day, Zandra’s dad said “No.” But, as any parent will tell you, “No” is just the beginning of the conversation when your child is determined.
When pressed, her dad said that he wasn’t going to buy her any more lip balms. If she loved it so much, maybe should just start making her own!
That’s exactly what Zandra did.
“Of course he said that as a joke, but it got me wondering how to actually make lip balm,” Zandra recalls. “I started searching & watching YouTube videos and experimenting with my mom. I finally made the perfect recipe that I started giving away then eventually selling.”
Her parents saw the potential in Zandra’s efforts, so her mom enrolled her in a local business program. Armed with knowledge and fueled by passion, Zandra created an all-natural skin care business.
Skin Care and So Much More
From growing her own business, Zandra has gone on to become a sought-after speaker & teacher. She has become a force for good in her community and around the world, donating 10% of all purchases to support educating girls.
Zandra has built a brand that stands for girls education & empowerment, with a mission to show girls that they are capable of pursuing their dreams.
“My Big Dream is to inspire girls to do their best every single day,” Zandra explains. “I want to be a positive light, an example. What makes me the happiest is a feeling that I’m fullfilling my purpose in the world by giving back to people and changing lives for the better.”
But Big Dreams require hard work & Zandra has as many commitments as any adult entrepreneur.
Describing her typical day, Zandra says, “I wake up around 6:30am and start my school day by 8. After school I head to practice, either golf or track depending on the season. I eat dinner around 5:30pm and head to the studio or I do other business-related work. I always try to be home and in my room by 9 because I still have homework!”
Of course, a daily schedule only tells half the tale for this teen entrepreneur. “I try to only work 3 days per week physically in the studio, teaching a class, speaking or planning. Mentally it’s constant. It’s not easy, but the hard work pays off big time so it’s cool.”
Still, Zandra makes time for a personal life, too. “In my free time I love to just chill and hang out with my family my friends,” she says. “I go to parties, listen to music, watch lots of movies on Netflix. I don’t get to do these things that often but I am so happy when I can.”
Whether it’s at a high school auditorium, with Girl Scouts, or on the TED stage, whenever Zandra speaks she focuses on a message of encouragement for young people just like her. Thinking back on her origin story, Zandra finds advice for other girls who are feeling discouraged when they’re told “No.”
“Don’t let that ‘NO’ hold you back,” Zandra urges. “It doesn’t have to be where the story ends. ‘NO,’ to me, means ‘not right now.’ Maybe you just need to step back & reevaluate yourself. Or it can be that the person doesn’t understand your vision. Go with what your heart & mind tells you.”
Zandra’s parents are certainly proud of everything she has accomplished. And Zandra herself doesn’t hesitate to feel pride in her efforts and in what she can offer the world. Even her reflections on her journey as a young entrepreneur provides encouragement to other Big Dreamers.
“I have been able to experience things by the age of 15 that some people never get the chance to experience,” Zandra says, expressing gratitude & astonishment. “I’ve been a guest speaker in another country. I’ve seen a product that I hand made be sold throughout the United States.”
“It’s amazing! I’m amazing! And so are you!”
Learn more about this amazing teen and her world-changing business! Visit ZandraBeauty.com.