In a candid conversation, high school freshman Jazmiere Bates opens up about her experiences as an entrepreneur and the challenges she’s had to overcome to establish her brand. She shares her journey, including the inspiration and dedication that goes into building a successful business, and the importance of staying encouraged despite facing insecurity and doubts from others.


Jazmiere Bates:
Hi my name is Jazmiere Bates. I’m originally from the Hill District, but I live in Verona now. I am 16. I go to Winchester Thurston, and I am a Virgo.

Jazmiere: I think I overthink things a lot. A lot of people tell me that. I think I believe that. I think ahead. That’s how I would label it.  

Jourdan Hicks: Jazmiere lives with her mom and her fur baby Kendrick. He’s a small but stocky pit bull mix, and he’s the center of her world. The other major love in her life is her business, Kin of Duncan.

Jourdan: She started it when she was 8 years old. Big Virgo Energy. The name pays tribute to her roots and shows respect. For her family. Her mother’s last name is Duncan and she is her kin, Kin of Duncan. Get it? 

Jazmiere: I think I want people, when they hear the name Jazmiere or Kin of Duncan, I want them to be like inspired to create their own business or kids to be inspired to create their own business. 

Jourdan: It was a dream that started in the Hill District. 

Jazmiere Bates, 16, sits for a portrait in her studio where she makes doggie bandanas for her company, Kin of Duncan, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Verona. Jazmiere has her eye on her legacy at a young age, but says being successful doesn’t mean she has it all together. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Jazmiere: So when I was younger, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. It’s basically like a reading disability. My mom brought this cricket machine for me and over the summer I used to like create like little clothing for my dog.

Jazmiere: I had a dog when I lived on the Hill District. His name was Socks. I love that dog so much, too, like he’d run away and he’ll be like at my nana’s door and we’re like, oh my gosh, where is Socks? We lost Socks. And like my Nana’s like, I got Socks right here. And I used to create clothing for him. So when we used to like go on our walks, me and my mom and Socks, a lot of people expressed their interest into the clothing. At Petco, there was like good bandanas, but I was like, I can probably make something a little bit more better and more reasonable. 

Jourdan: Soon after, a local entrepreneur and business coach approached Jazmiere about pitching her business to be a vendor inside a new pop-up store and business incubator in East Liberty. 

Jazmiere: So I had a good opportunity with, um, Ms. Tammy Thompson.

Jazmiere:I love her so much. It was when she was coming up with the Gallery on Penn, and if you never heard of it, it was a storefront with, like, multiple different spots to give other small businesses in Pittsburgh a chance to, like, expand their business. There’s a couple other people and I actually had to pitch my idea to them.

Jazmiere: So me and my mom, we like went to the Dollar Store. We get like those posters so I can do my vision board. And at the time I think I was like 8. I was either 8 or 10 or something and I didn’t know what a pitch was, so I was like, OK, I’m just gonna like talk about it. I wasn’t even nervous.

Jazmiere: I remember it ‘cause like, now when I do pitch competitions, I get nervous because it’s like, there’s money involved, there’s judges, there’s like a bunch of people interested in the business and stuff like that. So I was just like telling them about it, you just seen head nods and stuff like that. And then it was like, OK, you’re in.

Jazmiere:Like that’s how it was. I’m like, OK. 

Jourdan: Were you were surprised?

Jazmiere: I wasn’t surprised.  I just didn’t know it could be that easy. 

Jourdan: Kin of Duncan has been recognized by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority. Penn Hill’s Charter School for Entrepreneurship Innovation Works, Pittsburgh City Paper and NEXTpittsburgh.

Jourdan: Think of Jazmiere as a younger, hipper, more bubbly Mark Cuban. 

Jazmiere: When I introduce myself to some people, they’re like, oh yeah, I hear about you from such and such. That’s when I didn’t think of myself as just Jazmiere. I thought of myself as Jazmiere, the owner of Kin Duncan, the owner of this brand that people are hearing about in Pittsburgh.

Jazmiere: I’ll say one thing that I learned and am still learning is how to become a better entrepreneur. That’s one thing that I’m still learning to do, and it is slightly a challenge, but it’s like I’m OK with this challenge. I wanna be an entrepreneur that, you know, expands their business and is not like, afraid to go up to a person and be like, ‘Hey, like let’s create something together. Let’s collaborate on something. I think this will be big for us. This would, this is something that the world or people that their, like their target audiences would want.’

Jourdan: What do you want your brand, Kin of Duncan, to do in Pittsburgh? 

Jazmiere: I would want people to remember all the things that I did in Pittsburgh. When I graduate high school, I do not plan to stay in Pittsburgh, like I plan to go outside of Pittsburgh for college, but I want people to just remember the things that I did in Pittsburgh, different pop-up shops or the um, block party where I basically shut down a street. Right beside the, um, Gallery on Penn and there was a bunch of different local dog shops and it was honestly really fun and I will do it again, but I hope people will remember that.

Jazmiere:I want them to like tell the story for some reason. There was this one girl, she was so cool. She created her own business when she was 8, something like that. As Kin of Duncan’s success drew more attention, Jazmiere found herself having interactions that she felt like didn’t align with her true self and undermined her sense of self-concept.

Jourdan: Kids at her school didn’t believe she was a business owner, and adults had a hard time accepting Jazmiere as an industry peer. Teens’ and adults’ expectations of her made her question, why don’t people take kids seriously?

Jazmiere: I always took myself seriously, it was just a lot of people don’t have, like, respect for me ‘cause of my age.

Jazmiere: I think it’s because some adults can relate, like when they were like kids themselves, like they didn’t take their self serious a lot of times. So they think, oh, since I’m not taking my, since I wasn’t taking myself serious back then, I don’t think this person’s taking their self serious right now.

Jazmiere: But it’s like, come on now. I’m 16. Like, come on. Treat me with some respect.

Jourdan: This season, we have heard from many teens who have expressed their need for guidance and validation from the adults in their lives, and just how crucial it is to have someone who they can spend time with, acknowledge your strengths and make them feel special.

Jourdan: Jazmiere says her mom is the first person that comes to mind when she thinks about what’s inspired her motivation to achieve her goals, and who told her that she had potential. 

Jazmiere: So my mom didn’t teach me how to sew. A lot of people do think like, oh, your mom taught you how to sew? And I’m like, no. She always likes to put me into like different classes and like to learn new things.

Jazmiere: And that’s one thing that I like that my mom does because I was interested in animals, so I wanted to become a zoologist. So, my mom would send me to like the zoo camp, that’s what it was called at the zoo. And like, we’ll like, um, see like the behind the scenes of like, what’s going on. Like I remember we got to feed like a baby hippo before we got to see the enclosure of the giraffes.

Jazmiere: I think one thing that I see from my mom that she does for me, and I hope that’s like a good example, is her introducing me to new opportunities or new activities.

Jazmiere Bates, 16, demonstrates how she makes doggie bandanas for her company, Kin of Duncan, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, at her home studio in Verona. Jazmiere had the Pittsburgh bridge-inspired fabric made for her business. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Jourdan: Jazmiere’s experience is a great example of how trying new things and practicing our interests can help us build self-esteem. When we take on new challenges, we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and proving to ourselves that we’re capable of more than we thought.

Jourdan: And when we found something that we’re passionate about, we can become really good at it with practice, which can boost our confidence and self-esteem even more.

Jazmiere: Do you see your mom working on her self-esteem or how do you see her working on her self-esteem? 

Jourdan: I see her working on it by like, she’s really accountable with herself, like with herself.

Jazmiere: Like she’ll say,  oh, Jazmiere, you’re procrastinating. You can’t do this. You cannot do this. And I, for me, I’m the opposite. Like, I hate hearing from her mouth personally, I hate hearing her like saying stuff that I do because it’s like, OK, I’m working on it though. Please don’t remind me of it because I’m trying to find a better solution to work on this.

Jazmiere: So please stop reminding me when I’m working so hard to do it. But that’s something that she does and that is something that I’m trying to work on, ‘cause she does it and it’s like, it’s not that her life becomes easy, but something that she’s struggling with, it turns out more not into a struggle, more into like riding a bicycle so easily.

Jourdan: Jazmiere is grateful for all of the blessings and recognition that she’s received, but she’s also aware that her life isn’t perfect. In fact, there are some significant matters in areas in her life that she wishes she could change. 

Jourdan: What else you wanna talk about so far? We got, you know, this is Jazmiere, she does the things and she has a successful business and these are some of the experiences she had, you know, these are some of her thoughts as a teen living in Verona, whose opinion is important because it exists.

Jazmiere: I feel like I wanna talk about like, I don’t know how to word this goodly, but probably like how fathers have like affected like their, like kids. Not only just sons, but daughters. 

Jourdan: OK, cool. So, let’s talk about that.

Jourdan: Do you mind me asking you questions about your dad? 

Jazmiere: Sure. 

Jourdan: OK. What would you like to share about your dad? 

Jazmiere: So my dad, he’s like, in the beginning of my life, he was in my life, but then it was like my mom and my dad separated. I look at him differently now, like I don’t look at him as a father, but it’s like, I kind of like look at him sideways as a father.

Jazmiere: Now, for me, in my opinion, he like doesn’t meet the definition of a father. It’s slightly hurtful because it’s like, you know, like your dad’s like your first, like the first like man to ever love you and stuff like that. So it’s kind of like, like an ache in my heart sometimes, but then it’s like I’m slightly OK because I really, the definition that he thinks is a father, it’s, it’s even more painful sometimes.

Jazmiere: And I think that’s a lot of, not a lot of kids can relate, but slightly can relate. Like, I remember the probably last time that I spoke with him was probably like last summer. I remember he was like asking me like what grades you were in. Like he couldn’t even like know my grade level. That was the part that I like found like, oh my gosh, like you’re my father, you’re supposed to know this. And he was like asking me since I was in eighth grade at the time — well, upcoming ninth grader. He was like asking me like, oh, so what school are you going to? And when I was talking to him, I was like, um, you’re supposed to know this. And I know some people are like, that’s your father, so you’re supposed to have respect for him, but it’s like, how can I have respect for somebody that doesn’t have respect for me? So I can’t give you 100% respect when you can’t even gimme 100% back. So it’s just gonna be, it’s just gonna be at a 0% of respect. And I was like, um, I think you’re supposed to like know, like my grade level and stuff like that.

Jazmiere: You shouldn’t be asking me at all, and then it was just like, oh, have a nice life. Bye. So then I was like, oh, OK. But it’s like there’s zero communication at all. Once in a while, like he’ll probably call or like he’ll try to text or something like that, but then it’s like you had like, it’s like there’s been so many chances that I’m honestly like just like done with it.

Jazmiere Bates, 16, stands for a portrait, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, at home in Verona. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Jourdan: So yeah, I hear you saying like, it’s hard for you to respect your dad because you don’t feel like he is respectful of his role in your life and responsible with his role in your life. Or you are the sun. Jazmiere is the sun. Her planets around who orbit her are her entrepreneurship, her business, her school, her interactions with people, your hobbies, your interests, the TV shows you watch, the things you think about your relationships with people.

Jourdan: How do you feel like your dad plays a role in that universe for you? 

Jazmiere: I feel like there’s like sometimes more like you need your dad for like certain things for like that role in like a kid’s life. And then there’s sometimes it’s like it doesn’t affect my life. Him not being in my life, like has affected my life slightly, but it’s like, when like sometimes like my friends would talk about, they’ll be like, yeah, there’s just like one guy that I like and stuff like that, but it’s like my dad’s like, oh, no, like, he’s like a such and such and such and such.

Jazmiere: But it’s like I can’t tell my dad if I had a crush on like a guy before because it’s like, oh, he’s not there.  Or like, just like for like the manly things, but it’s like, you know what? I can like take a class on like how to change a tire, how to, like, do your own oil changes and things like that.

Jazmiere: It’s not like me saying like, I need my dad, but like I have to work around and I have to come up with a different solution because he’s not there to do that for me. So it’s like sometimes I do feel hurt.

Jazmiere: Like I said, there’s like an ache in my heart and I’m like, ah. But then other times it’s like, I don’t think if he was there, I don’t think he’ll be able to do that because I don’t think his father was like, didn’t like live up to that definition for him.

Jazmiere: So it’s like since his father didn’t do that, now he’s like, inflecting it on. 

Jourdan: One thing that Jazmiere was thoughtful enough to share is that although her and her father’s relationship is inactive, she would appreciate it if he showed up for her in a different way, by supporting her business. This could include sharing her business information on social media, sharing when she’s being recognized by the media —  like now — or simply letting people know that he has a daughter who’s making waves as a young and established business person, because it would mean a lot to her.

Jourdan: Jazmiere’s experience highlights the importance of support and encouragement, especially from those who are closest to us, even if we don’t have perfect relationships with our family members or peers.

Jourdan: We can still show up for them in other ways. By supporting and encouraging each other’s dreams and ambitions, we can help each other to build more confidence and self-esteem.

Season four from The Source Podcast is produced, reported, and hosted by me, Jourdan Hicks. Halle Stockton is our editor-in-chief. Sound design and mixing done by Liz Reid of Jeweltone Productions. 

We continue to interview young people for the podcast as we speak. If you’re curious to learn how you can share your story with us, or nominate a young person at ages 13 to 18 to appear on an episode from the source, you can get in touch with me by sending me an email to

PublicSource is an independent nonprofit newsroom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find all of our storytelling and reporting at I’m Jourdan Hicks. Stay safe. Be well.

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Jourdan is a senior community correspondent at PublicSource. Previously, Jourdan was engaged as a community-based educator in the Hazelwood section of the city. A lifelong Pittsburgh resident, she’s...