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St. Joe’s junior turns recyclables into décor

Most teenagers have hobbies outside of school, but 16-year-old Joshua Fraass is one of the few who has managed to turn his passion into profit.

Joshua, a junior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, has been interested in art and design since he was young, and over the past few years has started to make home and décor items to sell at local craft shows. He is currently preparing for a large show the first weekend of December, where he hopes to make at least 200 items out of recycled and vintage materials.

Joshua originally got the idea of selling his products at craft shows from his grandmother, who made and sold hand-painted wooden crafts; before starting to make items himself, he often helped her set up and run the shows she worked at. However, he says that he did not start making his own products until he saw a basket made out of recycled magazines at a local décor shop last year, and was inspired to make one himself. After that, he began experimenting with different types of recycled materials and developed a line of products that includes holiday cards, garlands and wreaths.

Last year, when Joshua was shopping with his grandmother for craft materials at Patricia’s Back Barn in Wheatfield, the owner of the shop asked him what he planned on doing with the things he purchased. When Joshua told her about the decorations he made out of recycled products, she offered to let him sell his products out of her store.

“It was fate,” Joshua said. He returned with several items for display, and soon set up his own corner of the store. He now calls his line of products “Go Green Recycled & Vintage” and has created a craft studio in his basement, where he makes all his items.

Joshua says that one of the hardest things about running his business is finding time to balance work and school, especially with all of the pressure that comes with a heavy course load. “Last year it wasn’t too bad,” he says, “but this year with APs and studying for the SAT, it’s a lot harder.”

Additionally, Joshua says that finding recycled materials to use and designing and making his products is extremely time-consuming. Because he uses only recycled materials, he cannot simply go to craft stores and buy items in large quantities – he instead shops for materials at Goodwill, Salvation Army and garage sales, and uses old books from library sales for recycled paper.

“I can’t always finish things on time because I have to find the recycled materials first,” he says, while noting that the cost of his materials often makes it difficult to stay within a budget. Still, Joshua says that despite the difficulties he faces in running his own business, he loves what he does: “I’ve never found it hard because it’s not stressful – if it were too stressful, I wouldn’t do it.”

Joshua’s biggest sellers are the paper hearts that he makes for Valentine’s Day, but he also makes paper wreaths, gift bags, cards and stationery. He says that he is starting to make furniture as well. He recently painted several chairs and benches to sell, and has developed a line of framed chalkboards that can be used as wall hangings. Right now, Joshua is spending most of his time preparing to run his own booth for the first time at the holiday craft fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2 at Heim Middle School, 175 Heim Road, Amherst. Although he does not take orders online, he says he’s considering creating a website, especially if he decides to continue his business in college. He often gets ideas for new products from online craft blogs, where he can see what other people with similar businesses are doing. He plans on studying environmental design in college, and though he is not sure if he will have the space to set up a studio, he plans on selling his products independently as an adult.

Joshua says that although it can be difficult to balance business with schoolwork, it is worthwhile because he loves what he does. His advice to other teenagers who want to start a business is to find a passion and then persevere – he says with hard work, anyone can start a business.

Meredith McCaffrey is a senior at Sacred Heart Academy.