Social Butterfly

Marketer, entrepreneur Jase Burton focuses on the big picture

By Dwain Hebda

 

Photo by Sara Blancett Reeves

Photo by Sara Blancett Reeves

Jase Burton doesn’t sound like most teenagers. The 16-year-old junior at Little Rock’s eStem High School speaks with the confidence of someone much older, because in business years, he is. “It seems like my whole life I’ve started businesses,” he says. “I remember being 7 years old, I started a frozen pizza company and then I got bored with that and the next week I started a cookie-making company.”

The ventures didn’t last long, but they revealed something to the Little Rock native about what the future held. “Starting all these businesses and failing and giving up within a week or a month’s time, I wondered am I really into these things,” he says. “I figured out I wasn’t really into making cookies or frozen pizzas. I found out I was actually just creating companies to have the opportunity to market a company.

“I didn’t know that marketing companies were actually a thing that existed so when I found that out, it just kind of made my life.”

By the time his high school offered the Noble 101 program, there was no doubt that Burton would be among its inaugural class. The course, sponsored by Noble Impact in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service, leads students to public service through entrepreneurship. In its second year at eStem, Noble 101 is not only part of the school’s permanent curriculum, it’s expanded to other grades there.

It was also in that class Burton partnered with Sydney Brazil and together the duo would come up with the business plan for The Hole Thing, a gourmet donut hole bakery. That plan took third place in last year’s Y.E.S. 2.0 competition and today Brazil has brought their plan into a reality. Burton said while he is not officially involved with that venture, he’s not far away. “Every now and then I’ll do small marketing favors, but other than that we’re best friends,” he says. “I’m in the kitchen most of the time just hanging out.”

That is not to say that he’s been idle on his own entrepreneurial front. Five months ago, he launched his own marketing firm, The Burton Agency. Like all new ventures, the company has taught him a lot in a very short period, including how to land clients when you’re barely old enough to drive.

“Yeah, I get (the age thing) a lot. That might be my biggest adversity to have to overcome as a high school entrepreneur,” he says. “So I’ve made it a priority not to just walk in and introduce myself and give a business pitch, I like to kind of build that relationship first.”

Case in point: Burton’s first client, Little Rock bike shop Spokes, grew out of frequent visits to the shop and the casual conversations he had with the business owner that had nothing to do with a sales pitch.

“I was the regular customer, I’d come in, get coffee, you know, have conversations with the owner. And eventually he asked me, ‘How’s school going for you? Where do you go to school?’ and so then I told him about what I did.

“He actually asked me about my company and that’s when I ended up giving the pitch. So I kind of established that trust and built that credibility first.”

The Burton Agency generated additional industry buzz covering social media for Startup Weekend Little Rock, an event for aspiring entrepreneurs that featured a slate of speakers, mentors and judges from across Little Rock’s business spectrum.

“That was a huge opportunity and that kind of got the word out,” Burton says. “And then Sydney and I were featured on FOX 16’s Good Day Arkansas and that was huge publicity. Other than that, I market the company at networking events and on social media, of course.”

“We’re very proud of Jase and the other Y.E.S. 2.0 competitors across Arkansas, not only for what they’ve accomplished, but also for their passion and enthusiasm—what we call the entrepreneurial spirit,” says Marie Bruno, executive director of Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation. “Arkansas is a very exciting place to be for entrepreneurs of all ages and we are excited to see what our high school students will be bringing to our state’s economy and livelihood in the future.”

Speaking of the future, Burton is no less ambitious on this front than he is in his business pursuits. His goal is to attend Princeton University following graduation, pursuing a degree in either economics or marketing. And, he’ll bring his company along for the ride. It’s a tall order but as Burton points out, the problem with many people is the fear they have of failure that keeps them from trying anything at all.

“I get a lot of my confidence from all the small failures that I’ve had,” he says. “I used to be afraid to fail, until I realized that each time I had a small failure, it helped me grow more and more into the person I am today. I don’t fear failure anymore.”