Entrepreneurial ambitions lift 2 AHS seniors’ skincare business

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

By Savannah Howe

Austin High School seniors Denni Heimer and Hewan Dagmawi are passionate about three things: skincare, haircare and being a boss. Their own boss, that is.

Hewan Dagmawi. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Dagmawi and Heimer are participants of the 2022 Mower County CEO program, which connects local high school students interested in entrepreneurship with business mentors throughout the Austin community. While learning the inner workings of a small business, CEO participants are tasked with creating their own business model and/or product. And while the majority of the projects end at hypotheticals or prototypes, Dagmawi and Heimer took their business, HD|DH Hair and Skin, one step further.

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“Our focus is to bring safe, quality, and natural products to every skin and hair type, tone, and texture,” Heimer says.

The students’ line of hair- and skincare products is all-organic and biodegradable. They’ve faced some challenges in getting their business off the ground, as all entrepreneurs do.

“I wanted to see the behind the scenes of small and big businesses, and to also make my own business,” Dagmawi said of why she chose to join the CEO program.

Turns out, funding challenges and supply chain issues are what the scenes hide. Still being full-time students, Dagmawi and Heimer struggle to find the space and time to create their products, and their supply sources have been slow during the pandemic.

“Our biggest challenge is funding, we pay and work for everything that goes into our business,” Heimer explained.

The girls stumbled into an unexpected opportunity when they landed a spot as a vendor at a May 13 Bloomington event “Our Season to Bloom,” a cross-disciplinary fashion event held by University of Minnesota students Emily Winzenz and Ella Beuning. While the crown jewel of the event was a fashion walk by Minneapolis gown rental boutique Midwest Gowns, creators specializing in jewelry, beauty, baked goods and other gifts were invited to showcase their work alongside the runway.

“The creator, Emily, wanted an environment where creatives collaborate to support and show their skills,” Heimer said. “It was an amazing fashion show with local designers, models, makeup artists and photographers, along with vendors.”

Denni Heimer. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

While Our Season to Bloom was a one-time event that’s come and gone, Dagmawi and Heimer made great connections and acquaintances in the fashion, beauty and creative industries, and looks forward to HD|DH Hair and Skin’s own season to bloom after the CEO class is concluded.

“Within the three months we’ve created this business, we not only made amazing product, but we also have networked and set ourselves and business up for success,” Dagmawi said.

For younger high school students whose ambitions don’t include a 9-5, the CEO program offers a preliminary glimpse into the life of an entrepreneur.

“I’ve always liked the idea of becoming my own boss,” Heimer said. “CEO really shows if you can or can’t make it.”