For most teenagers, working can seem like a daunting task. But for College of the Mainland (COM) student Austin Kidwell, the prospect of working inspired him to choose a different path – one that allowed him to unlock his true passion and explore entrepreneurship, even before graduating.

“Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be able to control how much money I was making,” Austin said. “I never liked the idea of working for someone else. I wanted to be my own boss.”

A Collegiate High School (CHS) student, Austin will be graduating with an associate degree from COM on May 14 before earning his high school diploma from Hitchcock High School. And it was through the CHS program that Austin was truly inspired to take his learning beyond the classroom.

While in his Business Principles class, he was introduced to Professor Katie Schroeder where he learned about various aspects of business, management and leadership functions as well as what types of challenges and situations to consider when running a business. A business owner herself, Schroeder offered a deeper perspective to her classroom instruction by providing real-world examples to her students based on her own unique and personal experiences.

“I’m able to talk to my students about the challenges of having a business,” Schroeder said. “And I'm able to share with them success stories. So, it makes our classroom a lot more fun and interesting.”

Little did Austin know that while in Schroeder’s class, he was already building his own entrepreneurial toolkit to apply his knowledge from the classroom in a very real and tangible way. “Owning her own business made her very relatable,” he said. “It showed me that becoming an entrepreneur is possible because that’s what Ms. Schroeder was doing, and she was successful at it.”

After much planning and research, and with the help and support of his family, Austin will soon be opening his own brick-and-mortar storefront called Bargains on 6 in Texas City.

“We are a liquidation-type shop where we will take in pallets of returned or partly used products and sell them at a marked down price,” Austin said. “We’ll be filling our shelves soon!”

While this transformative journey has been a long time coming, he credits the support of his family, particularly his grandfather Leslie Gilliam, for helping him bring his entrepreneurial dreams to fruition.

Austin Kidwell and grandfather Leslie Gilliam proudly stand in Austin’s liquidation shop
Austin Kidwell and grandfather Leslie Gilliam proudly stand in Austin’s liquidation shop, Bargains on 6, in anticipation of the store’s June 2022 opening.

“He has really helped guide me through this process,” Austin explained. “I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own.”

Gilliam has been overjoyed to witness the growth of Austin’s enterprising spirit throughout the years. He proudly recalls his young grandson visiting him at his ranch on the weekends, helping him in any way he could and building his work ethic along the way.

“From a young age, he and I have been working together, and he was always inquisitive about how to make it better, what to do next,” Gilliam said. “He thinks about how other people feel and what their needs may be and that’s an outstanding thing to have as a young man.”

Located on 505 6th Street North in Texas City, Bargains on 6 will open in June 2022 after Austin graduates. If the business is successful after the first year, he plans to move forward and open a second location to expand the business using the same business model.

While Austin is excited about starting this new chapter in his life, he is grateful to College of the Mainland for getting him there.

“When you find those resources and find the people that want to help you, it takes the stress off of you and you can focus on building that work ethic and striving toward your goal,” he said. “College of the Mainland, being a part of CHS, and taking Ms. Schroeder’s class have all been big parts of me being able to tell myself that I can do this.”

College of the Mainland will recognize Austin along with 365 other graduates during its Spring 2022 commencement on May 14 at the Abundant Life Center in La Marque, Texas. As a special feature, Class of 2020 and 2021 graduates will return to participate in this year’s ceremony which marks the College’s first in-person commencement since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

College of the Mainland (COM) Collegiate High School (CHS) student, Austin Kidwell, awaits his Bargains on 6th storefront opening in June 2022.
College of the Mainland (COM) Collegiate High School (CHS) student, Austin Kidwell, awaits his Bargains on 6 storefront opening in June 2022.

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