While many teenagers spend their free time hanging out with friends, shopping or using social media, Jamison Edwards has been busy building her empire.

At age 16, Jamison started her own business, Sugar Cookies and Co, making personalised shortbread cookies.

“I love decorating them,” says Jamison. “There are so many different designs, shapes and colours you can do. Every order is different.”

It all started when Jamison decided to make some cookies for her boyfriend’s mum’s birthday.

After the party, other friends began putting in requests for a batch. And just like that, a business concept was born.

“I had to register my business name, create an ABN, the whole lot,” says Jamison. “It kind of just blew up and I’ve been doing it every day since. I bought my car within two months of starting the business, a white Hyundai i30 – I love her.”

It’s hard to believe, but a few years earlier Jamison was really worried about how she would ever find a job.

Jamison’s older sister and brother had dropped out of high school at a young age, and she didn’t attend Years 7, 8 and some of Year 9.

Jamison’s life really changed when she moved to Oakwood School, an alternative to mainstream schooling offering personalised learning and pathway planning, in Year 9.

She completed Year 10, then the co-ordinator suggested Jamison do VCAL (Intermediate) Choices at Chisholm. VCAL Choices allows you to choose a vocational area of interest, ranging from tourism to carpentry.

“Straight away I was excited,” says Jamison. “I started Year 11 at Chisholm and never looked back.”

Jamison’s units included maths and literacy, as well as real world topics like work-related skills and personal development skills.

Jamison thrived at Chisholm. When she finished Year 11, she received three excellence awards from her teachers. She was also nominated as Secondary Student of the Year in the Chisholm Education Awards.

“What I’ve learnt at Chisholm 100% helped me start my business, especially the work-related skills unit,” says Jamison. “Even things about taxes, I never knew any of that until I started VCAL. In high school, I felt the work we were being taught wasn’t very useful, but this definitely was.”

Jamison plans to enrol in a Diploma of Nursing after completing Year 12, then eventually become a midwife.

Her advice to other young people not reaching their full potential in a mainstream setting is to be open to other possibilities.

“If you’re struggling, talk to someone because there are so many options now that can get you through to the end goal,” she says.