An Entrepreneur at Heart

Posted on Apr 30, 2019
An Entrepreneur at Heart

Jitong, also known as Tony, is a senior in high school in Rockford, Illinois.

For his senior project, Tony designed a stylish t-shirt representing his school. A significant part of the project involved marketing and selling the final product. The fashionable shirts, which are available in black and white, are selling for $10 each and are very popular among the students!

Tony’s Local Coordinator, Suzy, describes him as easygoing, respectful, an excellent student, and loyal to his host family. She recalls how excited Tony was to share his project with her.

“He told me that he completed his senior project – he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. When I visited the school one day, Tony brought over this huge box of t-shirts and said ‘This one is for you!’  I was so honored,” she shares.

Tony recalls the project being difficult in the beginning because he wasn’t sure which design to go with, which graphics to use, the positioning and layout, etc. His host mother introduced him to a designer in town, who provided Tony with a tour of his shop and a great deal of information. He set out to interview students at school to obtain their opinions and preferences.

After considering all of the feedback he received, Tony completed his design. The final product has a graphic of a fortune cookie on the front of the t-shirt, which he initially drew with colored pencils. The fortune says “I love Keith!” (which is the name of the high school). The back of the shirt displays a picture of the high school campus.

Tony contacted a factory in his home country of China, and they printed the t-shirts and shipped them to him.

“I use Facebook to market the shirts. I also take a box of shirts to school and walk around showing them to students. I talk to people, and they are interested in the shirt because it shows school spirit. When I sell a shirt, I feel very happy. I have sold 30 shirts so far!” he says proudly.

From this experience, Tony has learned about clothing design, manufacturing, marketing techniques, how to use Photo Shop, and much more. Tony tells prospective customers, “When I become a famous clothing designer, this shirt will be worth $500 instead of $10!”

Tony is planning to donate all profits made from the t-shirt sales to the Fine Arts Department at his high school.

Some of Tony’s favorite memories while on the PSE program include participating in the “Wise Team” competition in the category of Physics and Computer Science, bowling with friends, sharing Hot Pot in Chinatown with friends, and playing basketball with friends in front of the neighbor’s house. Tony has made many friends while on the PSE program and offers incoming exchange students this advise:

“Remember, you can easily make friends by attending the activities provided by your Local Coordinator. Take advantage of those opportunities!”

Barb, Tony’s host mother, is proud of him and laughs when asked about his eating habits, sharing that he has always preferred eating Chinese food.

“A local Chinese restaurant owner has taken exchange students under his wing making special authentic dishes for them to enjoy. Tony is one of his favorite customers,” she shares.

As for the future, Tony will be heading to Penn State to major in Economics.

“Tony is passionate and enthusiastic about whatever he sets his mind to. I’m really going to miss him and wish him the best!” says Suzy.

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