As the class chief executive officer, Reagan Herrmann put more than her fair share of work into the Monroe County startUP program.
With that effort plus work to get her own business started, Herrmann impressed the program’s board members enough to win Entrepreneur of the Year.
“It was awesome,” the 2021 Gibault Catholic High School graduate said of the award. “There was a lot of good candidates and it was really up for grabs because there were so many good ideas this year. I was really happy to see my hard work pay off.”
That end may not have been what Herrmann expected when she joined the class in the fall because entrepreneurship was not her passion.
“I was really undecided about my major,” Herrmann recounted. “My dad was always into business, and I thought it was kind of interesting, but I never knew anything about business. I thought this would be a really good opportunity to get an idea of what business was like.”
Herrmann got plenty of that experience as one of the class leaders in addition to all she learned developing her own business, Iry Rae Accessories. That company is “focused on fashion as well as versatility and effectiveness.”
Specifically, Herrmann makes a fabric pouch that attaches to key chains or purses that can hold items like a mask, credit card, cash or business cards.
Herrmann originally intended it to only hold that first accessory when she created the idea earlier in the COVID pandemic because she noticed she kept forgetting her mask.
“I thought ‘what if there was a way to have it on my key chain at all times?’ I kind of put that in the back of my head and didn’t think about it a whole lot,” she said.
As the time startUP students needed to choose their business got closer, the idea kept returning to Herrmann, and she decided to pursue it.
“I knew it would be very difficult, but I thought it would be something very unique and beneficial,” she said.
She began with a rudimentary design, and once she determined the shape and material of the accessory, she worked with her grandmother to sew the first prototype by hand.
The product went through seven or eight iterations before Herrmann “finally got the one that (she) really liked and would be the most useful.”
“That was actually probably the hardest part of my business,” Herrmann said. “It was fun but it was frustrating and very, very time consuming. You think that you have it perfect and you show it, and people are like ‘what about this’ or ‘this could be better.’ Fixing those things and going back to the drawing board was one of the most frustrating parts.”
For example, early on Herrmann realized she wanted the accessory to have two pockets, meaning she needed to include a divider.
Based on feedback from customers and her family, who Herrmann said were invaluably helpful, she also realized to not limit the product to being used to carry a face covering.
“There’s really a lot of different ways it can be used,” she noted.
Through the experience of creating her own business, Herrmann realized entrepreneurship was right for her. She plans to major in that subject at the University of Arkansas.
Before she leaves for college, Herrmann said she wants to find help manufacturing her product – which she offers in black and white – so she can keep the business operating from Arkansas.