Kaitlyn Long’s life seemed to be playing out on the ballfield. For years, that had been the plan.
She started playing T-ball with the boys at age 4, eventually taking up softball. She played year-round and traveled to tournaments as far away as California and New Jersey.
Long, a star catcher, was twice captain of the varsity high school team. College recruiters were interested.
And then, during her senior year at Apex High School, the plan changed.
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“I took a few months off and found that having a social life was kind of fun,” Long said. “I decided I wanted to be a college kid. I had other priorities.”
During her hiatus – and in the throes of senior activities – an idea for a new business started to take root. She had designed a planner for herself and realized there might be enough of an interest to market the custom calendar organizers.
In June this year, just two months after her lightbulb moment and shortly after she graduated, Long launched Legatum Planners, which sells customized organizers and calendars, and began taking orders. She is already turning a profit.
Long is just 18 years old.
“I had this feeling about it,” said Long, who is a student at UNC-Wilmington. “I thought this was something people could get behind. I started talking to other people, to other teachers. After softball, I was beyond bored. I needed something to do.”
Sparks of an idea
The idea came to Long when she was student teaching as part of the teacher cadet program at Apex High. She needed a teaching planner for lessons.
“I only needed one subject,” she said. “I looked at printables but nothing was as I wanted it to be. I’m very picky.
“I thought, ‘I’ll combine a bunch of these and make it my own,’ ” she said. “My creative little mind ventured out.”
Legatum, which is Latin for “legacy,” has fully customizable planners for students, teachers and business people. They come in colorful patterns and can be tailored with school colors, names and fonts.
“Every one is made to order and is as personalized as it possibly can be,” Long said. “You can go to Target and get a planner off the shelf, and it is what it is, but with us, you can customize it and make it exactly what you want it to be.”
She credits her classes at the school’s Academy of Information Technology with giving her the skills needed to push forward.
“AOIT was very helpful,” she said. “It’s very business oriented. I was on the multimedia and web development track. Every year we had meetings that would help us with our business skills. I drew on those skills and networking connections.”
One teacher was particularly influential. Amy Gage, who teaches English, is an entrepreneur herself with an in-home bakery called Sweet.
“Kaitlyn has always been a talented and responsible student, and just a genuinely kind person,” Gage said. “She is very creative and detail-oriented. Even though all of these traits will be helpful in growing her business, most importantly, Kaitlyn has a hard-working personality.”
As if to prove Gage’s point, Long spent so much time working on her business plan that her mother took away her computer for several nights to force her to rest.
After devoting most of her waking hours to Legatum during the summer, Long had to shift priorities in August when it was time to start her studies at UNC-Wilmington.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” she said. “I have a great support system with my family and friends, which has been hugely beneficial. I’ve had to transition from having all day every day over the summer with no other commitments. Now I have 16 hours in school and homework and trying to have a social life.
“I guess it’s good I’m an organized person and I have a planner to help me keep it all together.”
Although she accepts some help from family and friends, when it comes to making the planners she’s a one-woman show.
“I want everything to be to the same standard as it has always been, and I only trust myself to make it happen that way,” she said. “Since I’m in Wilmington, my satellite office where I keep my supplies is at my grandparents’ house about 20 minutes away.
“Some days I feel overwhelmed. But playing softball taught me how to keep my cool under pressure. That’s a valuable skill – to understand limits and know how to handle it.”
Long has no regrets about her decision to start Legatum at such a busy time in her life. She didn’t expect to be so busy with the business so soon. At first, it felt like a school project. Once orders started coming in, the reality that she’s a business owner set in.
“Absolutely in a heartbeat I would do it again,” she said. “It’s one of the most amazing adventures ever. Seeing my accomplishments and what I’ve been able to do has been incredible.
“With softball, it was team-oriented,” she said. “It’s been really cool to see that I did this myself. I worked really hard.”
For Long, the name of her company coincides with her new path in life.
“It’s symbolic for me,” she said. “For so long, my legacy had been softball, but this was changing gears, and what I want to be known for instead of what I accomplished on the field.”
For more on Legatum Planners go to www.legatumplanners.com or call 919-446-3323.