When Amanda Opferman's cell phone case started to deteriorate in June, she decided to make her own.
Using craft supplies and photo paper, the 17-year-old from Jefferson Hills constructed a personalized case with geometrical designs and color that caught the eye of family and friends.
"They liked my new cell phone case so much, they asked me to make some for them," said Amanda, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School.
Fulfilling the requests grew into a business, which Amanda calls Wallflower Design Co., a name suggested by a friend.
Constructed by hand, each case initially took more than an hour to make. Amanda quickly sold 100 of them at $15 each. Soon, she found a way to cut production time to about five minutes for each case after buying a special printer and a heat press. She started making the newer versions of her cases in December and has sold close to 500 at $25 each using her website, www.madebywallflower.com/ and Instagram, an online social networking service.
"Right now, I have lots of orders and am so busy, I'm not even thinking of marketing them somewhere else," said Amanda, who said she has clients as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.
Closer to home, Matt Santore, 18, of Bethel Park has purchased four of her cases, which he changes based upon his mood.
"When I heard about the cases from a friend, I bought one, then got another for Christmas and two more for my birthday in January," he said.
Amanda draws all of her case designs herself -- she has 28 so far -- but she can change the color schemes and fill customized orders.
"I spend about three hours each weeknight designing and making cases, but I make sure it doesn't interfere with my studies," she said.
Each case costs about $8 to make, and she offers online discounts and sales. The business is basically a one-person operation that she runs out of the basement of her parents' home, but her sister, Mallory, 15, sometimes helps.
Her parents, Patrick and Christine Opferman, operate a kitchen equipment repair service and offer her business and tax advice.
The profits from her sales go into a savings account, which she plans to use for college. She has been accepted to Point Park University, where she intends to study fine arts and business.
"Lots of my friends purchased the cases as Christmas and birthday gifts, and I plan to keep making them as long as people keep buying them," she said.
"My most difficult customized case was made for a woman from Florida ... ," she said. "I had to create three or four cases before she accepted one."
Thomas Calano, 17, of Bethel Park said the phone cases are strong and easy to use.
"I got mine two weeks ago and really like the design called Abby, a black-and-white image of an elephant set against a background of red, green and yellow splotches," he said.neigh_south
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.