Following in the steps of their father, California gearmaker Jeremiah Watt, teenagers Pine and Nevada Watt try out their talents as young entrepreneurs.
SILVERWORK AND STOCK TRADING, braiding split reins and selling buckaroo hats—it's all in a day's work for Pine and Nevada Watt. Balancing several side-projects between school and extracurricular activities, these industrious teenagers aren't just ambitious. They're downright busy.
Not long after stamping his first concho belt at age 8, Pine turned an interest in silverwork into a lucrative trade. In addition to belts, headstalls, scarf slides and chink conchos, Pine, now 17, has begun to dabble in new techniques and projects, crafting knives (such as the Damascus round knife he made for his dad for Christmas a few years back) and jewelry making.His 15-year-old sister, Nevada, is no less energetic, juggling several projects between training for half-marathons and building her first electric guitar. One of her tried-and-true moneymakers is buying and re-selling wild rags, and recently she began a business with her best friend, Reata Brannaman, buying and selling buckaroo-style hats, adding decorative hatbands the girls make themselves. She's also started braiding split reins for profit.
Pine and Nevada largely credit their parents, Jeremiah and Colleen, for their ingenuity and success. But their parents credit home schooling and Jeremiah's trade as a gear and saddlemaker.
"We wanted to teach them to be self-motivated, and to teach them that they weren't going to be given everything in life," Colleen says. "They grew up doing a lot of practical stuff, and they realize that in order to get somewhere or get something, you've got to know how to make money."
In turn, Pine and Nevada have become independent-minded and determined to do just that: make money. They're often inspired by the eccentricities of their father, who "can't do anything half-hearted," Colleen says. Many of his ventures directly influence his children, such as when he became interested in on-line stock trading, and encouraged the kids to open their own accounts. Some are less direct, such as his recent interest in carving fruit, a new hobby he picked up after watching YouTube videos on the subject.
"It's pretty funny," Nevada says with a laugh. "He made a radish into a mouse and he carves watermelons into these elaborate flowers. He's pretty creative. There are not many things that my dad can't do with his hands."
Though Nevada has made several conchos and belt buckles, she tends to steer away from intensely "handy" projects when it comes to business. Last summer, however, she began building an electric guitar with her father. Though the project has been tough—the sanding alone took almost 10 hours, and much had to be redone after the color faded when the guitar was accidentally left in the sun—Nevada says she plans to build another before she goes to college.
"Maybe it's just at my house, but we kind of steer boys to go do 'the sanding thing,' and girls to go do 'the cooking thing,' " Jeremiah says. "Nevada is not as gifted hands-on as Pine is, but I firmly believe when we start on the second guitar, it will be a night-and-day difference. Her hand skills are coming right along. She can sand as well as she can cook now."
Though her guitar was a project for herself, Nevada, like her brother, doesn't plan on turning any of her entrepreneurial pursuits into an occupation—at least not at this point. Nevada plans to become an obstetrician, while Pine plans to study business at the University of Pennsylvania. But there is one thing they can't help but take from their ventures: the value of hard work.
"Nevada is like the Energizer bunny," says Alison Brannan, mother of teenage buckaroo singer Adrian Brannan (see page 73). Nevada has been friends with Adrian for years and has helped sell her CDs on several occasions.
"The Watts are very driven," Alison says. "I think Jeremiah has always had that push from Colleen. She's very focused on the business end of things, and Nevada really takes after her in that sense."
Pine is also known as a hard worker. Since he was 13, he's spent several weeks each summer at the Princeville Ranch in Hawaii, helping build trails and clear brush.
"There's no comparison between him and the other kids I've been around," says ranch owner David Carswell. "He just keeps trying to do better each year. He showed up last summer and said, 'You know what? Last year I didn't work very hard, but this year will be different.' He's a real conscientious boy."
Part of that hard work has also been geared toward "making it" without leaning too hard on the well-known Watt name.
"In the beginning, it was a little bit of my dad's name," Pine says of his initial success selling conchos. "But I don't want that to be the sole reason I'm selling concho belts."
When Pine started stamping conchos, his dad oversaw all of his work, "just so I didn't stamp an ugly design," Pine says. Over the years, he has built most of his tools and obtained a workspace within his dad's silver shop at their home in Central California. As he progressed in his craft and invested more time, his work has become more independent.
"As we go, I try less and less and less to intervene in his layouts and designs," Jeremiah says. "You have to have your hands off in order to foster the notion, 'I live in my dad's home, I see his work every day, I'm influenced by it, but my work has my face on it.
"He has to stumble and fumble, mess a few up and put them in my scrap bin. But out of that will come a more honest look. He will express himself, not his father."
Nevada, on the other hand, faces a different marketing problem: her age. But rather than leaning on her father's name, she leans on what he's taught her.
"Customers sometimes assume I don't make good products because I'm young," Nevada says. "Not to brag, but the edges of my reins were rubbed better than the others I saw at the Working Ranch Cowboys Association championships. That's because of my dad. He said, 'You have to make them the best if you want to sell some.'
"My dad has always influenced me to work as hard as I could. Whatever he's doing, he does it to the best of his abilities. He's not afraid to go against the flow and try different things on saddles, spurs and bits, and I really appreciate that attitude."
Melissa Cassutt is a Western Horseman associate editor. Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.