Local teen gets creative for a cause

Ella Johnson and her art.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

When Ella Johnson’s babysitting money dried up last year with COVID restrictions, she knew she had to get creative to earn money to pay for the care of her pets. Her pets are numerous: three guinea pigs, two bunnies, three lizards, land snails, two dogs and a fish tank with a population of 40.

Johnson, a 16-year-old South County resident, discovered she could combine her interests and skills in the visual arts to build an online business. In the past, Johnson had used her parents’ Facebook page and auctioned some of her art. She then donated the proceeds to Generous Hands, a local non-profit created to help provide food for children during the weekend.

She was confident she could make some money to help with the food and care of her pets, and she soon began selling her art and some old clothes on Depop, an online marketplace where individuals can buy and sell unique merchandise. She also began posting her art on Pinterest.

Johnson has gained traction with about a million views on her tutorials on Pinterest which demonstrate how to make resin rings. She also has created videos demonstrating painting, found at https://www.pinterest.com/ellaspaintings. Her sales have gradually increased to over 500 transactions. And true to her heart, she has been giving back to the community: She continues donating to Generous Hands to support its backpack program, and she and her family have begun serving meals at the Kalamazoo homeless camp.

Johnson offers a few tips for people interested in marketing on these various platforms. “Look at what is selling at the time. Trends go in and out so fast, but if you are able to catch up and follow the trend, you can make some money.”

She also cautions against “under-selling” art, stressing it needs to be worth the time and effort spent. “Don’t be afraid to price your items. No one is making anyone buy it.” Johnson is entering her senior year at Portage Central High School and plans to North Central Michigan College to study business.

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