From an early age Emma Claire Spring was an entrepreneur.
When a home in her neighborhood in Arkansas was featured in “Southern Living” magazine, she set up her own lemonade stand to serve the thousands of folks who drove by to view the home.
“I set up a stand at the end of the driveway and sold lemonade for 50 cents or a $1,” she said. “I made a ridiculous amount of money.”
The next summer when the number of people driving by dropped significantly, she took her sales door-to-door delivering lemonade. She also sold decorated ice cream cones as Christmas ornaments.
After her family moved to Whitefish, she started Pretty Witty Accessories selling her handmade button bracelets, hair bows, and Capri Sun pencil cases at the Farmers Markets.
“Business is very natural to me,” she says.
The Whitefish High School senior plans to someday open her own chain of a dozen boutique hotels. So this fall she will head to Washington State University where she plans to major in hospitality business management and is considering minors in entrepreneurship and French.
She has already begun her career in hotels. She has worked at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and the Firebrand hotel from cleaning rooms to working the front desk.
“I love hotels — it’s my passion,” she said. “I’m a very social person and I love to make people feel at home. I like working with people who are on vacation and getting to be involved with their planning to make sure they explore and have a good time.”
Throughout high school, Spring has been a leader in DECA, which has a goal to prepare students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. All four years she qualified at the state level to attend the international competitions.
This year she served as the Montana DECA president and this winter spoke with Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney on the importance of career and technical education during the Montana Career and Technical Student Organization Governor’s reception.
“That was a highlight of my high school experience,” she says of her time working on DECA.
Spring also spent four years as a cheerleader, played tennis, is a member of the National Honor Society and the Key Club.
She also participated in the ProStart program, which gave her the opportunity to work along with Alyssa Mcleod to present a business proposal for an original restaurant concept to a panel of industry judges. Their concept won first place at the state level earning them a trip to the national competition.
Spring, along with fellow students Sarah Perez and Matthew Perez, in 2015 created a start-up company Appleholics as part of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at the high school. The academy is a nine-month program that guides high school students through the process of starting a real business.
They ran their candied apple business for one summer at the Farmers Market after earning $1,000 to launch their business through the academy.
Spring says it was a great learning experience creating and fine tuning a business plan, and working through the logistics while preparing to launch a real business
“It was good experience,” she said. “That was a small business, but the skills I gained will help me open my own hotel.”