What started as a simple school project has turned into a growing business for Beach teen Marina Wilson.
Last March, the 14-year-old, who is home schooled by her mother Monica Kelly, was assigned to make a project out of duct tape. A quick YouTube search brought her to an idea that would not only fit the bill, but be the foundation for her own business.
“I saw a video on YouTube of someone making a duct tape wallet and we wanted to make one so we did – and it was horrible,” she said.
Her first few creations may have been less than perfect, but she kept at it and was soon starting Marina Rocks Toronto to sell her duct tape creations, which include the original wallet, but also hair bows, bracelets, bookmarks, and purses.
Using patterned and coloured duct tape, Marina makes decorative flowers for the tops of pencils and patterned bows for head bands; she makes colour block bracelets and even Justin Bieber wallets – one of her most popular items.
“They come out with a new tape every month,” she said.
While duct tape crafters are rare in Toronto, there is a large community in the United States and online.
“There’s nobody that does duct tape in Toronto, but on YouTube they’re famous. They have their own channel,” said Kelly.
Once she perfected her skills – it used to take 90 minutes and now it takes just 30 for Marina to make a wallet – she set out to sell her stuff.
Her first opportunity came with Leslieville’s Arts Market where market co-ordinator Daniel Cohen loved Marina’s creations.
“I was very eager to have Marina,” he said. “It’s really wonderful what she’s doing.”
Cohen not only praises the quality of the items she makes, but he’s also astounded by her age.
“When I was 13 that was the last thing I was thinking about – starting a business,” he said.
With nearly 50 artisans selling their creations at the Queen Street market, Marina is by far the youngest and her items sell really well, Cohen said.
Marina’s creations can also be found in Atomic Toybot, Swag Sisters and Birthia; Marina was also one of the entrepreneurs chosen for the Danforth East Community Association’s December Pop Up Shop project. A few more stores are interested in carrying her products and she’s a regular on the craft show circuit.
Marina enjoys all the positive comments.
“A lot of people say my stuff is really well done and they usually buy something,” she said.
Mom couldn’t be prouder.
“She gets a lot of positive feedback and she’s been welcomed into the adult crafting world as an entrepreneur,” Kelly said. “They really respect her.”
Not content to just create and sell, Marina also teaches others how to make their own duct tape products with classes at arts and crafts store Michaels and Toronto Trade School. Her next classes are Jan. 16 and Jan. 23, respectively.
Marina admits there are days where she doesn’t feel like picking up the tape, but for the most part she loves the hobby that has turned into a business for her.
Kelly also makes sure to use these experiences as teachable moments for her daughter. She’s learned about time management (she usually works for an hour or two a day), saving, marketing, and being a good corporate citizen.
“I’ve taught her that you need to volunteer in the neighbourhood,” Kelly said. “As part of the business she has to give back as well.”
To that end upcoming classes will see a reduced registration fee if participants bring a donation for Community Centre 55.
Marina’s not sure what the future holds for Marina Rocks Toronto, but for now she’s enjoying sharing her creations with others - and making a little money too.
For more information or to see Marina’s creations, visit www.facebook.com/MarinaRocksToronto