These collegiate business owners talk work, school, and future plans, and they make it look easy.
Balancing life as college students and business owners can be difficult, but brothers Reed and Riley Stephens are having the time of their lives. They have designed and manufactured a line of wooden men’s watches, Ambici, and their market is expanding.
Originally from Mandeville, Louisiana, Reed, 22, and Riley, 19, have been interested in entrepreneurship from a young age.
“It was the idea of being our own bosses and making money in high school without having a typical after school job that was appealing to us,” Reed said.
After a few failed attempts at selling non-branded items online, the brothers knew they needed to create their own brand to be successful. Woodworking came naturally to the boys, following the lead of their father and grandfather who were both carpenters. Combining that with their current hobby at the time, collecting watches, the idea was pretty clear.
“We thought wooden watches would be something we could sell that would be personal to us,” Reed said.
A successful Kickstarter campaign launched in December 2014 gave the boys the motivation and funds they needed to turn Ambici into a reality. With a goal of $12,500, their campaign raised more than $20,000 in one month’s time. They created an LLC in January 2015, and haven’t slowed down since.
Ambici, meaning “ambition,” describes the business and the boys well. Their dedication is obvious through how passionately Reed and Riley talk about their goals, though as a mechanical engineering and computer science major respectively, it doesn’t always come easy.
“Balancing this with school and still having a life is hard, we want to be young while we can, but still work hard,” Riley said. “The time management aspect is challenging, but I think we’re figuring it out.”
To the brothers, their high quality wooden watches are more than an accessory, they’re a conversation starter.
“It’s a unique piece, combining the wood with the metal makes it different,” Reed said. “There wasn’t a huge market for this when we started, we had business but not a lot of competition. Since we’ve been in the market I’ve seen the idea spread.”
With four unique styles, and a new line to be released soon, the watches sell for $129 on their website ambicico.com. Part of their profits go to Alzheimer’s research in honor of their grandmother, reinforcing the family behind their business.
The boys hope to get Ambici into designer men’s stores, with the goal of wholesale, and have plans to expand the line to other wooden accessories. Prototypes for wooden sunglasses and cufflinks are in the works.
“We’ve grown as business leaders, of course, and as individuals,” Reed said. “The knowledge and experience we’ve gained from doing this at our age has been the biggest personal perk.”
Where the future will lead Ambici, only time will tell. But Reed and Riley know they’ll be there together.
“We balance each other out well, he’s the big idea guy and I can more realistically make it happen,” Riley said. “I think we’ll keep each other around.”
Photos by Preston Salassi