The rise of Student-owned businesses and entrepreneurship

In order to remain sane during the pandemic, students have been acting on their passions while making some money on the side.

Monica Mulhern, Assistant Editor, Student Life

Few things beat the feeling of coming home to a package of some clothes you recently bought. You remember how amazing it is you got them, not only because of the quality, but the fact you are supporting another student in your school.

The lack of job openings and availability due to the pandemic, coupled with business closures, has left some students in need to make income, but with no real way of doing so. As a result, student entrepreneurship has been on the rise as students find ways to make money by pursuing their own passions and businesses. Not only do these businesses benefit the public, but they also benefit the entrepreneur in more ways than one.

Starting a business is usually the hardest step. It all begins with a strong passion and dedication, which can lead one in numerous directions, from building a business to distract oneself from the boredom of quarantine to entering a local competition that correlates with one’s passion.

Jalen Prilo, who runs Cradlewear, a business that makes shirts and hoodies, explains how he first started. “I entered a contest at a local organization and I won, which led to creating my own business and since then I’ve been selling stuff.” Entering in a local contest that matches with what you like is a smart step forward, as it can help you realize how much you like what you do and maybe even lead you to start a business for it. From the business, you can reap numerous benefits from it and help both yourself and your community.

Besides money, there are plenty of other benefits that come from being a student entrepreneur. Jenna Tomasch, entrepreneur of The Stitched Rose Co., a business that makes scrunches, pencil cases, clothes and more, points to her experience as an example.

“I think it’s great for high school students because my sophomore year, I wasn’t able to drive or get a job, so making a little money here and there was nice,” said Tomasch. “Also, it looks great on future job applications, as if you don’t have any experience in a specific field, you can draw from the business.” Owning a business, especially during these trying times, emphasizes leadership (if working with others), a strong work ethic and strong passion. In addition, it can improve your skills drastically depending on the business, helping with any future jobs later. 

Most student-run businesses use their social media to promote their organization and show its significance to the community, as well as promote and help people learn about their products or services. Maya Martin, who runs a thrift clothing business called Thrifty with Maya, elaborates on other forms of promoting.

“It’s more local and I’m spreading it mostly through word of mouth right now, eventually I want to start a Depop, but right now, in my free time, I’ll usually post on my [Snapchat] story and on the Instagram,” said Martin. “A lot of my friends have been telling other people to check it out which is also super helpful.” Using different methods of promoting the business is crucial, as only doing one method will not reach out to different people every time. However, social media is very expansive, meaning the potential to grow from social media advertising alone can be daunting. Focusing on more local businesses, word of mouth is definitely beneficial, as helping your community can help to promote it just as much as social media.

The pandemic forced many student-run businesses onto social media to be visible. This increased presence has inspired other student entrepreneurs. 

“It is very inspirational. I see people my age doing it and I think it is the start of something new,” said Prilo. “I’m just glad I was one of the first people around my circle to start going into the entrepreneurship field and I always want to inspire people to do the same thing, since as you get older, the main goal is to work for yourself.”

I always want to inspire people to do the same thing, since as you get older, the main goal is to work for yourself.

— Jalen Prilo, founder of Cradlewear

The overall rise of students owning their own businesses and running them themselves is arguably impressive. Student business owners have to run a business alongside school, extracurricular and other demands.  

Balancing between work and school is crucial in an academic setting, as it will not only help with time management, it could also pay big dividends in college or in the future in general.

“People underestimate the work it takes, I even underestimated it,” said Martin of running her own business. “I was like ‘Oh, it’ll be easy, I’ll take some photos and I’ll post them and it’ll be that,’ but it takes so much time and dedication, especially with taking pictures with the right lighting and angles. It takes a lot more time than you think.”

Attempting to juggle so much at the same time is difficult, however, not impossible. Respecting and acknowledging the amount of work entrepreneurs go through in order to provide their products is important, as it is not known how much they stressed over it and hoping that it is of quality.

If you are interested in starting your own business, Tomasch shared some advice regarding how to approach what you want to sell.

“If you’re selling something, sell something that you like, something you’re passionate about, because it is hard to know what somebody wants,” she said. “So, if you make something for yourself, if you are the ideal consumer, then that’s the best since you know what you want so then it is easier to know what other people you want.”