While some 16-year-old girls in Jacksonville might be focused on hitting the beach with friends, Shelby Gogulski has her priorities focused elsewhere – priorities that have landed her on “The View” and “Shark Tank.”
Shelby is the co-founder, with her younger brother, Gordy, of Yourself Expression. The company focuses on interchangeable jewelry that wearers can customize to their own preference. Shelby developed the concept at age 14, after her mother refused to buy her a $200 pair of boots. This sparked some creativity in Shelby’s mind.
“I’ve always liked to start new things. I would try something out and then try something new if it didn’t work out,” she said. So, Shelby began to decorate boots she already owned using colorful bows and experimented with jewelry to make the boots more expressive.
Turns out Shelby wasn’t the only person looking to personalize their wardrobe and accessories. The concept took off amongst friends and at trade shows.
“Well originally I started out with some very basic bling and things, and people would be like, ‘Oh do you have this, do you have this, do you have this?’ And so it kind of just turned into, they’d say something and I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll create that for you.’”
That desire to meet the demands of everyone resulted in Yourself Expression producing nearly 3,000 different product pieces … in its first 18 months. The company branched away from solely trade shows and began selling through wholesale and affiliate partners. They also own a storefront on St. Johns Bluff Rd
In February 2015, Shelby and her mother were in New York City and decided to catch a filming of “The View.” She planned to bring a few of her designs, but first she had to get in the door. Audience members had to be 16, and Shelby was only 15. End of the journey? Nope, she tweeted to Rosie O’Donnell, one of the show’s hostesses at the time.
“Just lie,” O’Donnell tweeted back to her. Bless the internet.
Shelby showcased and gave out some of the jewelry during commercial breaks, hoping they would post pictures of it on Instagram or Twitter. Within a couple hours, she was sitting in the executive producer’s office with an offer to be on the show the following week. She accepted.
Not long after, she was contacted by the investment television show, “Shark Tank,” to make an appearance. Over 77,000 companies and business owners apply for the show each season, but only about 120 make it to air, according to Shelby. Yourself Expression was one of those 120, being featured on an episode that aired May 6.
Long story short, they didn’t get a deal.
That being said, Shelby believes that simply making it on-air is a huge accomplishment, one she’s proud of. She also said the experience taught her a lot about how to think with a business mindset, presented her with mentorship and pushed her to work harder towards future success.
Shelby plans to return to Shark Tank, this time with a more refined business model and more knowledge of her industry. She said the immediate next step is to get into the souvenir industry by bringing Yourself Expression to theme parks and sports teams. The company is set to launch in SeaWorld parks this summer.
Despite her busy schedule and travels, Shelby is able to balance her school and social life. She is currently homeschooled two days per week so she can keep up with her studies. She also plays on a recreational soccer team and spends time with her six dogs. Shelby said one of her long-term goals with Yourself Expression is to work with the Humane Society and their animal welfare programs.
What advice does Shelby have for new entrepreneurs?
“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Oh, but what if I fall? Oh, but darling, what if you fly?’ You shouldn’t be afraid to try something because if you don’t try, then you won’t know if you’ll succeed. So, if you do have something that you’re passionate about, try it.”