With an entrepreneurial leader and a strong corps of savvy students, the Business Professionals of America club at Crooms Academy is ready to build its own powerful brand
At an age when most girls were still playing with toys and dolls, Allison van Tilborgh decided to start her first business.
Having noticed that her grandfather – a marathon runner – had rough and calloused feet, Allison offered to massage them... at a price. She was seven years old.
“I was always looking for ways to make money,” says Allison, now a 17-year-old high-school senior from Lake Mary. “When I saw my grandpa’s feet, I asked him, ‘If I rub your feet, will you give me a dollar?’ He did, and then I ended up doing my grandma’s feet and my parents’ feet. I called it Allison’s Nail Company.”
Instead of spending money on frivolous things, the budding entrepreneur invested her earnings in additional supplies like scented lotions and cosmetic bags. She also bought folders to insert the menus she’d devise, with package deals like foot scrubs and a couples’ massage (for her grandparents).
It was the first of many businesses that Allison would develop before she was a teenager. She did face painting, dog walking, and wallet and ring duct taping, among other ventures. Allison gave each business a name and even made brochures and set up Facebook pages.
Now, as the president of the Business Professionals of America team at Crooms Academy of Information Technology, Allison is inspiring others to be entrepreneurs, too. Under her guidance, the Crooms chapter of BPA – a national organization designed to prepare students for the business world through regional, state, and national competitions – has flourished.
At the BPA regional competition this past December, 30 of the chapter’s 32 members advanced to February’s state finals at Walt Disney World. The team won 41 medals at the state finals, and 22 students qualified for BPA Nationals, which will be held in Dallas in May.
“This year, the club has experienced an increase in participation from students throughout the school and an increased success rate at the regional competition,” says BPA sponsor Lindsay Olevitch, an AP and honors U.S. history teacher at Crooms. “As the president of the club, Allison encourages each member to reach new heights and continue competing. We have many first-year competitors who have looked to her for guidance, and she has become a great mentor for them.”
BPA’s motto is “Today’s students. Tomorrow’s business professionals.” And Allison has already proven to be well on her way to business success. In addition to being involved in the BPA program since she was in the 10th grade, Allison is also her school’s National Honor Society secretary and head female ambassador – coordinating and leading tours for middle-school students who visit Crooms.
“I never envisioned I’d be leading all these clubs at school, because I was extremely socially awkward when I came to Crooms,” Allison says. “I definitely felt like an outsider that first year. Then I realized that the worst thing that can happen is you fail.”
Allison’s drive to succeed comes from both of her parents, as well as the circumstances of her early years. Born in the Netherlands to an American mother, Amy, and a Dutch father, Martijn, Allison was four years old when the family moved to South Africa to do missionary work. When she was six, the family – which included younger brothers Andrew (now 16) and Noah (now 12) – moved to Lake Mary to live with Allison’s grandparents, Dave and Debbie Condiff.
“I had been to preschool in the Netherlands and South Africa, but I never went to kindergarten,” Allison says. “But I was old enough to be in first grade, so that’s where they put me.”
At Crystal Lake Elementary School, Allison remembers being so confused. She only knew A through F in the alphabet and needed the entire school year to catch up with her classmates.
“It took a while for me to realize that I was intelligent,” Allison says. “I just had to work that much harder. By the third grade, I was in the gifted program. That helped build my confidence.”
However, a bout with mononucleosis during her first year at Millennium Middle School provided another setback. Allison was stuck at home for three months and had to do “the whole catching up thing again,” she says. Instead of returning to Millennium, Allison basically home-schooled herself for the next three years.
During that time, Allison did some traveling and also taught herself how to do video editing so she could work part-time for her father’s business. When she enrolled at Crooms for ninth grade, she also signed up for Seminole State College’s dual enrollment program. By the time Allison graduates from high school this spring, she will also have earned her associate’s degree.
“I don’t know exactly where I’ll end up, but I know that things will work out,” Allison says. “I look forward to being able to influence people and make their lives better.”
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