Biz Kids: This teen turned her doodles into fashion

Published 2020-03-11 08:00

Original T-shirts shipped worldwide

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Making money off doodles might seem too good to be true, but this 11-year-old made it happen.

Inspired by Toronto sports teams, Leeloo Monleon turns her drawings into T-shirts.

And people are loving them.

"People want to support me and I'm really happy about that," Leeloo said.

Leeloo poking her head out of a rack of T-shirts.

Leeloo Monleon’s family helps her run her business while she’s in school. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Special birthday request sparked business idea

Leeloo was born with an eye for art, and her family always knew she was creative.

"She picked up a pencil at a very young age," said Diana Tran, Leeloo's mother.

So in the spring of 2016, when her uncle asked her to put one of her pictures on a shirt, Leeloo was happy to oblige.

A picture of Leeloo's first T-shirt, inspired by the Toronto Raptors logo. It looks like a scribbled version of the logo.

Leeloo first made this T-shirt for her uncle, which is inspired by the Toronto Raptors logo. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Shortly after her first creation, she started designing more prints as gifts for other family members and friends.

Demand spread quickly.

At seven years old, Leeloo started receiving requests from strangers who had spotted her work being worn along Toronto streets.

Specifically, customers were eager to get their hands on shirts featuring the logos of the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays.

And so, her business — named Leeloodles — was born.

Leeloo and her parents launched an Instagram page for the shirts, found a studio space to act as Leeloodles headquarters and found a nearby manufacturing company to print the T-shirts.

An Instagram post showing Leeloo and her two sisters wearing Leeloodles T-shirts.

T-shirts sold worldwide

Fast forward four years and Leeloo has sold about 20,000 T-shirts, which sell for $35 apiece.

Not only that, but her shirts have also been sold worldwide and are particularly popular in Asia.

"Our T-shirts have travelled everywhere," Leeloo said.

Pictured here are Leeloodles T-shirts, tank tops and long-sleeved shirts.

Pictured here are Leeloodles T-shirts, tank tops and long-sleeved shirts. (Leeloodles)

With help from mom

But Leeloo can’t take all the credit.

Her parents handle all the logistics, including marketing, manufacturing, distributing and event coordination.

In fact, Leeloo’s mom calls herself a "momager,” a job that can demand anywhere between five and 16 hours of work a day.

Diana Tran (a.k.a Leeloo's ‘momager,’) pictured at Leeloodle's booth at the 2019 One Of A Kind trade show in Toronto.

Diana Tran says she’s her daughter’s ‘momager,’ handling logistics, shipping and social media for Leeloodles. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Leeloo is also reaching out to others through charity — something she said has always been important to her.

While most of the money goes toward Leeloo and her sisters' futures, a portion goes to local causes such as LGBT Youthline, VIBE Arts and the Toronto Zoo.

Customers pictured here shopping at the Leeloodles booth at the 2019 winter One of a Kind Trade show.

Leeloodles made its debut at the 2019 winter One of a Kind Trade show. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Leeloo hit a new milestone late last year as the youngest vendor at the winter 2019 One Of A Kind trade show in Toronto.

It was also the first time Leeloodles attended the event.

As Leeloo goes through school, she said she hopes to continue creating new designs, growing the business and selling products to even more clients worldwide.

Pictured here is an Instagram post of 'The Raptors Championship Retro Bigheads' T-shirt, inspired by Leeloo's dad's own 90s 'nostalgic love for the classic Chicago Bulls & LA Lakers Bighead tees.'


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