Entrepreneurs Corner: ‘Most of my friends think I’m a total nerd’

Sheena Allen has taken her life into her own hands and has become a businesswomen, starting two of her own enterprises within the last year.

Sheena Allen has taken her life into her own hands and has become a businesswomen, starting two of her own enterprises within the last year.

Instead of partying or watching TV, 21-year-old Allen has started two businesses

It’s probably true that most 21-year-olds are more focused on partying and fun than on business.  However, there is at least one 21-year-old whose mind is squarely on business.

In her senior year of high school, Sheena Allen decided that she wanted to be her own boss and “do things my way.”  She has taken that determination and put it to work.  After much careful planning, learning and preparation, Sheena has started not one but two businesses in the past year, and both are showing good progress.

“Most of my friends think I’m a total nerd,” she said.  “They don’t get why I’m not ready to spend my time partying, watching TV or hanging out.”

Instead, she spends her time on her businesses, working and refining the models, focusing on marketing and business development. She figures she’ll have plenty of time for parties when her businesses are solidly established.

Sheena runs two Internet-based businesses, Photolinkage and Midchat.  Photolinkage is a photo-exchange business somewhat similar to Photobucket or Flickr.  In a matter of months, Photolinkage has grown rapidly, and now generates thousands of pageviews monthly.  Midchat is a social site for kids, primarily in the 9-15-year-old range, which Sheena describes as a “clean and safe site” for young people.  The site is constantly monitored and tracked to be sure it stays that way.  Also in a matter of months, that site has grown, so that it already has about 800 members.  She plans to add numerous other enhancements and options to both sites in the coming months.

Just how did she get the bug to start these businesses, and how did she raise the capital to get started, before she was 21 years old?

“I just made up my mind that I wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she said.  “Of course, I got plenty of no’s, but I just figured that with every no, I was getting closer to a yes.”

That turned out to be true.  Through perseverance and determination, she finally managed to connect with an investor in Atlanta who was impressed with her business plan and her ideas, and was willing to provide the basic start-up capital she needed to get started.

Asked how she developed her business plan, Sheena smiled and said, “By studying other business plans.”  She found a template, reviewed other successful plans and used that information to construct her own plan in several phases.  She considers a well-organized business plan to be essential to success, and in fact, her plan is based on 10 year projections.  And where does she expect to be in 10 years?

“I’ll be running a multi-million-dollar company with 100 or more employees, “ she said.  “I fully intend to have at least one site in the top 50 most viewed on the web. I know my vision, and I intend to make it a reality.”

What does she consider the most important elements in starting a business?

“You have to know where you want to go,” she said.  “You have to want to do things your way, and you have to be determined not to let anything stand in your way. If you’re not positive and upbeat, forget it. It’s really tough approaching investors when you’re just 20 years old, but I figured that I could learn something from every no I received, and try to improve my presentation the next time around.”

Evidently, she succeeded at that, since her businesses are now up and running, and she has the capital to develop them as her vision matures.  She acknowledges that she chose the Internet business model because it clearly has the lowest entry price and generally requires the lowest capital.

Currently a senior majoring in film and psychology at Southern Miss, she has attended the university on a full scholarship.  That’s probably another indication of her dedication to meeting objectives.

Does she feel that she’s missing anything when her friends come by and urge her to come out and party?

“Not a thing,” she said.  “I have to say that I really love what I do, and to me, my businesses are lots more fun than partying.”

She has many other interests she intends to develop in the coming years, including fashion, real estate and the entertainment business (primarily as a concert and event promoter).  For now, though, she’s happy building her internet business models.

Asked whether she had someone who had helped to encourage her, she suggested that her family has been extremely positive along the way.  She also points to a book by Russell Simmons titled “Do You!” that motivated her to step out into the business world and do things her way.

Having spent an hour with Sheena and seeing the kind of determination, dedication and positive aura she projects, it’s hard not to see her as the CEO of that multi-million dollar company in 10 years.  And who knows?  It could be that some of those friends who think she’s a nerd might just be working for her.

Photos by Don Smith.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

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6 Responses to “Entrepreneurs Corner: ‘Most of my friends think I’m a total nerd’”

  1. Marcus L Johnson Says:

    I’m very proud to see Sheena being recognized for her accomplishments. She has been blessed to be a successful individual at almost anything she attempts. Bright future ahead and I’m sure this won’t be the last interview you have with Sheena.

  2. Shareta L. Washington Says:

    I am so proud of Sheena. I have watched her mature into a very intelligent, head-strong, beautiful young lady. Stay on the right track!! you inspire me ;)

  3. Karen Willis Says:

    I always knew she would be something special and I have known her from a little girl, Congratulations my grown up great niece, I love you and keep up the great work and may Gods blessing be with you always.

    Aunt Karen,

  4. Carrie D. Allen Says:

    Sheena I’m so proud of you. Always remember, keep God first and everything will follow.

  5. Coty Latham Says:

    Sheena you are an inspiration! When we were kids you always studied the books and talked about owning your own businesses. I’m so very proud of you of never giving up that dream! God has tremedously blessed you and you, my dear cousin, are own your way! As you mom said in her comment, KEEP GOD FIRST and He will continue to bless you. I am 26 years old and I wasted several years of partying and had I not done so I would be further along in my career goals. I am happy you choose your future over partying. When I see you, you give me hope that it is not too late for me to get to my success as well. Congratulations, Sheena D. Allen, CEO! Wow what a sound!

    Love ya!

    Coty (cousin)

  6. Jamison Woodall Says:

    From the moment I first met you 10+ years ago, I always knew that you were one of God’s most brightest, talented, and gifted STARS! I have always known that you were destined for “Greatness” because of your positive attitude and determination. You will get very far in life and will prosper to the fullest extent of magnitude. Thank you for being a friend, sister, motivator, innovator, and encourager in my life as well as my family’s life. Remember to always keep GOD first and we will continue to wash you blossom into the beautiful flower that you are springing up from the garden.

    Be Blest and Bess Wishes :-),

    Jamison Woodall (Close Friend)

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