A Brooklyn teen has been named one of the Top Ten Young Entrepreneurs in the World for her creative venture. NY1's Kristen Shaughnessy filed the following report.
Inside her family's apartment on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, Cheyenne Sookoo spends hours in her studio painting, drawing, creating. Her current focus is a series highlighting the beauty of women of color and her love of nature.
Cheyenne has a name for each painting.
"So the blue one over there represents water, her name is Oshun, the green one is earth, her name is Eden, this one is Neolani, she represents air, that one is fire, her name is Enya and this one is the ether, her name is Aerglo," Sookoo said.
Creativity runs in her family.
Cheyenne’s mother also is an artist and pushed her toward the arts at an early age.
She enrolled at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts and at the age of 14 her passion took an entrepreneurial turn.
She created a business, "Paints by Chey", painting everything from canvas to clothing.
Last year, with the encouragement of her economics teacher and mentor Josh Harris she came up with a new idea.
"Events on Canvas is a company that specializes in live painting at events ranging from weddings to corporate events. So it will be a new form of entertainment to make your event stand out," Sookoo explained.
She paints live with a final reveal at the end – a painting that doubles as a party favor, capturing the essence of the event.
She entered "Events on Canvas" in competitions sponsored by a non-profit organization called Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship that helps young people mainly in black and Hispanic communities become more entrepreneurial and build business skills.
"And these business plan competitions are sort of like Shark Tank for Teens. You pitch your eight minute business presentation through Powerpoint to a panel of judges and you are asked some questions," Sookoo said.
With Harris's help Cheyenne fine-tuned her business idea. She won $6,000 in one competition and last week was named one of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s top young Entrepreneurs in the World.
"This means so much to me that I am recognized for an art business. I had many people throughout my journey tell me that I can't do this, I can't be an artist, I'm going to be a starving artist, I'm going to fail and NFTE has helped me with the entrepreneurial mindset in terms of not giving up," Sookoo said.
Cheyenne paints a couple of times a week. She says once she starts she often paints for 12 hours or more, often getting so lost in her work she forgets to eat or drink.
"I am happy doing what I love to do and I don't need to work retail or nine to five, I'm going to be my own boss," said Sookoo. "Obviously you look at the money aspect of it and you want to be big, but I just want to do what I love."
And she's making money doing what she loves. Her paintings sell for hundreds of dollars. Her fee for a live event? About $1,500.