When Ja’el Mosley ’12 was a young girl, she created a business that profited an impressive $45 a day. Her plan was simple yet brilliant. Choose a target market she knew well – kids. Pick a product that’s in high demand – candy. And sell, sell, sell.

“I was the only candy lady around, and they ate it up,” Ja’el says, reflecting back.

Now Ja’el owns a screenprinting and embroidery business, Ja’el’s S.P.E.E.D , which was recently featured on Fox8 news. The majority of her clients are UNCG students and staff looking for custom-printed items like shirts, pens and mugs at a competitive price point. She is currently expanding the business to include university swimwear.

That’s how her brain works. She’s constantly considering new business opportunities. “I have notebooks upon notebooks of ideas. But you can’t just have ideas; you’ve got to move on them.”

Ja’el’s first taste of entrepreneurship came when she was just four years old. She made napkin holders from dozens of hand-traced turkeys. Her clientele were customers at her father’s business – the first black barber shop in Mauldin, SC. Ja’el was raised around entrepreneurs. Her parents are business owners. And her grandfathers started the first black car lot in their hometown.

As an older child, Ja’el made and sold what she called “Bible Beads” – bracelets and necklaces with religious sayings on them. Then she became a mother’s helper, got certified by the Red Cross, and started a babysitting business. Anywhere she saw a demand, she envisioned a business to answer it.

“You can learn skills of entrepreneurship, but I think the most innovative entrepreneurs are just born that way.”

Ja’el is studying event management in the Department of Community and Therapeutic Recreation. But when Bryan School of Business and Economics professor Joe Erba met Ja’el, he encouraged her to take entrepreneurship classes. One class stands out: Erba’s “Campus Entrepreneurs” course. It taught her how to formulate a business plan, and as one of three students earning Campus Entrepreneur Awards, ultimately gave her the opportunity to secure funding from The Bank of Oak Ridge to start a campus-based business.

She refers to Erba as one of the mainstays in her UNCG network of support, a person she will likely keep in touch with long after she’s graduated. “Erba and my mother – they’ve supported me the most. My mom is the most important person to me. I just want to make her proud.”

“Although I hesitate to agree that ‘entrepreneurs are born, not made,’ Ja’el is an example of the former.” Erba says. “She has known for many years that she wanted to be her own boss and from the moment I met her, I could tell she was resiliently focused on that goal.”

Ja’el has proven she is adept at putting her mind to something and accomplishing it. But her goals involve helping others advance as much as herself. She speaks to youth groups and has mentored at-risk girls, advocating for better decision-making and for going to college.

“When you are a part of a community and you gain from a community, you need to give back,” she says, adding that she makes sure to donate part of her proceeds to a special cause, one that changes from year to year. “Everybody has positive energy. Nobody can take that from you. You just need to find what you love and do it.”

Photography by David Wilson, University Relations