Peterson Sees Small Business Future Through Art

The pandemic left many Johnston students with extra time on their hands, normally filled with school activities and social events. For Johnston High School junior Reagan Peterson, it meant more time to grow her small business, “By The SeaGlass.”

Reagan Peterson

JHS junior Reagan Peterson stands with some of her art creations before an art show. (Submitted photo)

Since 2018, Peterson has used her creativity and art skills to take sea glass and make whimsical pictures. She first started collecting sea glass when her family lived in Japan. Now, friends from around the world send her the small pieces of sand-polished glass. She also works with a local stained glass artist to get colored glass scraps, which she then turns into sea glass using a glass tumbler.

What started as gifts for family and friends has now led to an Etsy shop, commissioned pieces, and strong word-of-mouth advertising. It also led to an entry in the University of Iowa’s Jacobson Institute Innovator Competition, a national entrepreneurship competition.

“As part of the competition, I made an executive summary, including identifying the target market, revenue, and really getting to the bones of the business,” Peterson said. “It was helpful for me to see these things laid out. Then, I submitted it to contest and was chosen to pitch. I think there were ten student businesses from across the nation selected to speak with judges.”

Peterson is also enrolled in the JHS Entrepreneurship class, taught by Tim Brickley. As part of her competition prep, she created her pitch and detailed summary for her classmates to review. Peterson said their feedback was helpful and helped her see areas for improvement.

“When it came to the actual presentation, I went into a detailed executive summary and then did a question/answer session with the judges,” Peterson said. “Public speaking is something I’m working on improving, so it was good experience that way, and then I also got a lot of new ideas for building and branching out my business.”

While Peterson was not one of the winners, she said the experience alone is enough to make her want to enter the contest again.

“I want to implement the suggestions of the judges and just try to get out there more with my work,” she said. “The pandemic has changed how I sell; it’s now more online and it’s been helpful to branch out in a pretty safe way. I’m encouraged by seeing sales from across the nation – that’s not something that’s ever happened before. When it’s safe to do in-person art/craft shows again, I’m going to go to bigger cities and extend my reach as an artist and small business.”

Like any emerging entrepreneur, Peterson has learned plenty of lessons along the way and readily shares her advice with anyone looking to turn their hobby into a revenue-generating business.

“You just have to start,” Peterson said. “Whatever you’re passionate about, start there. Use your own networks of family and friends to help spread the word and get your name out there.”

To view Peterson’s unique sea glass art, visit her Etsy shop at