NEWS: June 2022 Kate Stephens is Youngest Person Ever to Win Aspire Award!
Fire Within: Award winners include YouTube star Kate Stephens, Traci Rosenbaum Great Falls Tribune
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Owner: Kate Stephens
At 17, Kate Stephens is the youngest nominee and winner of the Fire Within award, and she's already making big waves in the business community.
Stephens, whose family has been in Montana since 1912, comes from an agricultural background. She said she was driving a combine on her family's wheat farm when she got to thinking about how not many people know where their fashion comes from.
So, Stephens started a contemporary handbag line that bridges the gap between farmers and consumers through fashion. She incorporates agricultural elements into her designs and hopes to remind people that cotton starts on a farm and leather starts on a ranch.
To that end, Stephens has an 80,000-subscriber YouTube channel called Kate's Ag - Farm to Fashion that goes behind the scenes of what farmers do. The channel's goal is to be fashionable and educational.
Stephens said she loves connecting with wonderful people, learning their stories and connecting with their communities. In fact, she makes a conscious effort to support North American manufacturers and give back to local communities.
She donated the first handbag she ever made to a Montana Farmer's Union auction, and it sold for more than $1,600.
Stephens said her biggest challenge as a business owner is being under 18. She said she faces a lot of age discrimination and barriers to setting up the business.
"I'd say perseverance is the main part of what I've learned through my business, and that you can never give up," she said, adding that she hopes other potential business owners do the same.
Stephens is working on growing the business and continuing her mission of bridging the gap between farmers and consumers. She will be attending Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Science in the fall, where she will major in communications and minor in agriculture and soil science.