The lizard biz


Tim Westergren started Pandora when he was 35 years old, Robert Noyce was 41 when he founded Intel and John Pemberton did not invent Coca-Cola until age 55. In the business world of today, there is a common belief that young people can not succeed until later in life when they have acquired more knowledge. But according to sophomore Mary Frizzell, students are never too young to pursue their dreams.

When Mary was 11 years old, she started breeding and selling geckos. She said she was born with a strong passion for animals, but after finding out her mother was allergic to everything with fur, Mary had to find a different kind of creature to love. She bought one pet gecko, and her love for the lizard inspired her to dive deeper into the reptile world. Her business is run from her own home, which is filled to the brim with lizard terrariums. Mary estimates she has sold around 50 total geckos, ranging from $30-$1,000.

“Selling geckos is a really cool experience,” Mary said. “I love doing things with animals and it is really fun to meet people that have the same passion as you.”

Her process starts with selecting geckos to breed that she believes will produce a good mix. After about two weeks, the mother lays eggs, and Mary gives special attention to the fragile shells by providing warmth and safety. After they hatch, the babies are ready to sell. Most of Mary’s business transactions happen through her Facebook page, Good Luck Geckos, where she communicates with prospective buyers to make sure they will take good care of their new pet.

“Great customer service, timely shipping, and [Mary’s gecko business] is beyond what I expected,” Ashton Lynn, one of Mary’s clients, said.

After she sells a baby lizard, Mary packs it in a box labeled “Fragile: Live Reptile” and ships it to its new owner. Once a year, Mary’s family travels to Tinley North American Reptile Breeders Conference (NARBC) in Illinois. She sets up a table at the conference to sell geckos personally and gets the chance to meet snake and lizard breeders from across the country.

“Everyone at the conference is really knowledgeable,” Mary said. “It’s really fun to meet new people who have experience and do the same things that you do.”

Julie Frizzell, Mary’s mother, said Mary’s business has always been driven by her love of working with animals. She said it was shocking to have so many geckos in the house at first, but now Mary and her entire family are devoted to loving and caring for them.

“Mary has never been in it for the money,” Julie said. “She loves learning more about animals and getting the experience that she will someday use in college and in her future career.”

Mary said she hopes to have a job related to caring for living creatures one day. Julie said Mary develops new skills each day that will someday help her to succeed in the animal world beyond her house.

“In the future, I see myself trying to branch out into other things like zoology and marine biology so I can help animals out in the wild and not be confined to one spot,” Mary said.

Mary has visions of traveling around the world to pursue her passion and hopes to make a difference in the lives of all types of animals one day. She said her big dreams all started with one gecko and her skills continue to develop.

“[Mary’s] business has taught her about the genetics of geckos and being a successful entrepreneur,” Julie said. “She is learning how to market, schedule, be responsible, be safe online, save a lot of money, work with others, collaborate with breeders and take risks.”