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Success at an Early Age

Small Business Development Center hosted by College of the Canyons
Eye Finity Printing • Santa Clarita, CA

Grant Peter Yahiayan was already running his own clothing company when SBDC Business Advisor Nina Grooms Lee visited his high school virtual enterprise class to coach the students on developing business plans. In late 2009, while still in high school, Yahiayan began participating in the SBDC’s Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP), which uses websites, virtual reality games, trainers, events and business simulation products to teach young entrepreneurs aged 14 to 27 business skills.

Best Advice:
Yahiayan had planned to start a second clothing line, but as the economy declined, he decided to switch gears. Grooms Lee helped him write a business plan for Eye Finity Printing, a full-service print shop offering one-day turnaround for T-shirts and business cards. She also helped him obtain financing for equipment and inventory. In addition, Yahiayan attended conferences including YEP events and the SBDC Dream & Discover  Entrepreneurship Conference.

Lessons Learned:

  • Presentation matters. “Nina helped me create a business plan, and from YEP I learned a few ways to make the business more appealing [to lenders],” Yahiayan explains. Although printing is considered a high-risk industry, he was able to obtain both debt and equity financing.
  • Get involved. Speaking at YEP events, networking with other members and attending monthly YEP trade fairs helped Yahiayan overcome initial shyness: “Now, I can talk to anyone.” He’s found new customers at these events, and his business has grown almost solely by word-of-mouth.
  • Learn from others. “[In YEP], I saw that other people who had trouble in business didn’t give up—they found a way to what they wanted to do,” he explains. “Hearing from other entrepreneurs at workshops helped me learn so much about how to be successful and avoid expensive mistakes.”

Eye Finity launched in April 2010, operating out of Yahiayan’s home. Since then, sales have increased more than tenfold, reaching the high six figures. The business has expanded to a warehouse and employs six in-house printers and 23 commission-based sales representatives nationwide.

Clients include 99 Cents Stores, UPS Stores, Disney and Farmers Insurance, and even some celebrities. Eye Finity obtained Small Business Administration 8(a) government certification, which has led to government contracts with sheriffs, police and fire departments, as well as schools.

Now attending UCLA, Yahiayan has a lot on his plate and in early 2011 took on a business partner, Lance Charles Stapel, to help share the workload. His goal is expanding Eye Finity to serve more members of the community, while remaining small enough to provide rapid, responsive service.

“YEP opened my eyes to what it really takes to have a successful business,” says Yahiayan.

Adds Grooms Lee, “Peter has taken full advantage of all the services we offer to help make his business a success.”

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