Young Entrepreneur Sweet On Business

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Felicia Garduno is the president and CEO of her own Payson-based company.

That, of course, isn't unusual.

Nor is the fact that she's quite short.

The unexpected part of her story is this: Felicia turned 13 years old just two weeks ago.

And she was 12 when her mother, Jeannie Garduno, suggested her family build an addition to its restaurant, El Rancho, to house a gift shop for Felicia to operate.

"At first, I was like, 'No, I really don't think so,'" Felicia said. "But later I said, 'OK, sure,' because the money goes toward my college education."

Hence the birth of Felicia's Treasure Box in the new entryway of El Rancho, 200 S. Beeline Highway, which Jeannie and her husband Bob have owned and operated since 1979.

Felicia, a seventh-grader whose Rim Country Middle School report card is comprised entirely of A's and B's, is not yet certain what college courses she wants to take, but "I was thinking of like becoming a veterinarian. Something fun that I'm interested in and that could help people and animals."

But that will have to wait. For now, Felicia's got a business to run, selling candy, candles, picture frames, books and toys.

Despite her title and the fact that she has her own Felicia's Treasure Box checkbook and signs all the checks, Felicia does have a partner: her mom.

"We work together. I like to order the candles and the picture frames. And the candy! I love candy! Especially the little raspberry-filled ones. They're really good."

Make no mistake: Felicia has a keen knowledge of every item on her shop's shelves, not just the sugar-laden stuff.

"I sort of know everything about all the things we have in the gift shop because I go through all the catalogs and read about them," Felicia said, adding that she and her mother never argue about what to order.

"We both like the same kinds of gifts," she said. "We agree mostly on everything."

Felicia spends three hours every Sunday evening doing the shelf-stocking and pricing, and during the week it's her job to take the deposits to the bank.

Her time card will start reflecting more hours next summer, when Felicia will work three or four hours a weekday and probably a few more hours on Saturdays. At that time, her mother said, the girl will start learning how to operate the cash register, count the proceeds at the end of the day, and help with the bookkeeping.

Is she good at math?

"Math hasn't been one of my favorite subjects," Felicia admitted. "I have a little bit of trouble with it."

If a customer bought one item for 37 cents and another for 40 cents, how much would he owe her?

"Um ... well ... four and seven is ... um ... Usually I'm good at this. It's hard to do in front of that tape recorder."

Felicia does have quick answers for other questions, though, like when she's asked what she likes best about owning her own gift shop.

"The price gun. You just set the price to like $14.95, and you click it. It's fun."

And what does she like least?

"Putting stock away. My mom will say, 'OK, get the box and put it over here.' And I do that. Then she hands me another box. 'What do I do with this? OK, I'll put it over there.' Then she says, 'That doesn't go there, it goes over here.' 'No it doesn't, it goes there ...' It's so funny. But that's what I like the least."

The most popular items for sale in Felicia's Treasure Box, she revealed, are "candles and picture frames. And candy. We sell Jelly Bellies and chewable candy. And crunchy candy and hard candy. I only put in the candy that I like. I taste it first. My favorite is called Jingle Bells. They're really good."

If a newspaper reporter visited her store, Felicia is asked, would she give him a free gift?

Pause.

"Are you saying for you? I don't think so. Maybe I'd give you a Jingle Bell candy. One."

One last question. Looking back, is Felicia glad she said "yes" when her mother asked if she'd like to run her own gift shop?

"Yeah, sort of," she sighed. "But I'd rather just collect the money and run."

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