- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 28 September 2016
- Written by NICOLE INGRAFFIA | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Starting your own business and being a college student sounds nearly impossible. Who has time for that when it's a struggle finding time to grab Rook iced coffee between classes? For me, I had to start finding time, because I came up with a small business idea in June that blew up more than I ever anticipated.
One day over the summer, I was browsing online for necklaces when I noticed everything I liked was totally overpriced. I didn’t want to buy a piece of string with a gem on it for $30. Then, I realized that I could easily make my own necklaces and accessories.
ABC's hit TV show "Shark Tank" is a show I watch constantly, which subconsciously taught me a lot about how to succeed as an entrepreneur. It can be challenging starting a business as a college student, but with hard work and creativity, anyone could do it.
Finding the courage to begin is a tough part for many young adults with a big idea. Alan Fazzari, Instructor of Management and Decision Sciences, offered the following advice to budding businessmen and women: “Follow your passion, don’t be afraid, because fear is not a part of being an entrepreneur,”
The first step is testing the market. I went to the arts and craft store and bought a small amount of jewelry supplies. With trial and error, I made a few chokers and a few necklace wraps, then advertised them on my personal Twitter account. If no one showed interest, I would have just kept the necklaces for myself. But luckily, I had a lot of responses of people asking where they could get one and for how much.
After the initial response, it was time to get creative. The name of your business should stand out and reflect what items you're selling. The style I wanted to portray was a bohemian chic vibe, so I named my business "Bohemian Vibe Jewelry". Once the name had been decided, a logo was necessary. I asked my sorority sister, Lia Stiles, a sophomore social work student, to help me with this. Stiles specializes in modern day calligraphy, and each time I need a logo or graphic made, I'll come to her and she will create beautiful content quickly and efficiently. This has taught me the importance of reaching out to your friends and peers—no one can do something entirely alone.
Another important aspect of running a successful business is beating the competitor’s prices, and knowing your audience. I decided to market my jewelry at simple prices such as five and ten dollars, because my target audience is overall college girls. I know I personally wouldn't spend more than $10 on costume jewelry.
Meaghan Wheeler, a senior secondary education and history student, has also started her own business appealing to university women. Wheeler utilizes Instagram to sell her jewelry and clothing, which she titled “The Blondie Boutique.” She said, “Creating my own business was the most rewarding experience because I believed in myself more than I ever had before. The positive feedback I received was so refreshing. It is an outlet for me to enjoy my own creativity, and see where it goes.”
Figuring out your margins is a vital step in the process. When starting your own business to sell merchandise, you need to know what the cost of your materials are versus the price you are selling them for. For example, I added up how much money it costs to buy supplies and then figured out that it costs me $1.21 to make one choker, and $2.30 to make a necklace wrap. My margins are perfect because I profit a decent amount of money per necklace sold.
Getting the numbers just right can be one of the many tricky situations that arise when running a business. John Maurer, a junior communication student, acknowledged the challenges that come with the endeavor: “Running your own business as a student is no joke. There are opportunities in making profit, getting experience, and showing courage.”
When you’re just starting out, you won’t need a lot of inventory. However, business will pick up, and it’s important to be prepared and have a lot of backup stock ready. When Bohemian Vibe Jewelry was beginning, I made about 20 necklaces and set up a necklace display in my mom's hair salon. She texted me at the end of the day saying she sold them all and that I needed to make more. Keeping a full inventory without overstocking it is the best advice for aspect of running a business.
Using your resources to keep track of sales and other information is a great way to stay on top of things professionally. I created an excel sheet to keep track of my sales each week. By doing this, I can see what weeks had the most profit and which style necklaces sell the most.
Marketing and determining your values as a business is the next step. About a week after this process and testing the market, I made an Instagram page to sell my jewelry to a more widespread audience. I gave my friends free necklaces and asked them to wear the jewelry and tag my Instagram handle on their personal pages to gain exposure. In today’s social media obsessed society, you cannot be successful without using social media to your advantage.
In the series of just a little over three months, I have had over $2,000 in sales and have over 800 Instagram followers and counting. Raquel Rudofsky, a junior health and physical education student says, "The jewelry is so trendy. I love wearing it and I'm always willing to model for Bohemian Vibe Jewelry. Having so many people support it is making this little business soar incredibly."
I'm studying abroad right now which has definitely been an obstacle, but I am still running my business in Australia with help from my good friend at home. I have yet to make a website, but I will focus on that upon my return to America. I hope my success from my little Instagram business inspires other people to start their own.
Wheeler also advices other students to go for it and create their own businesses— “Absolutely without a doubt do it,” Wheeler recommended. “Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. I would never want to wonder, ‘what if’?”
Pursuing my idea taught me a lot about time management, and that if you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too.
PHOTO COURTESY of Nicole Ingraffia
PHOTO COURTESY of Nicole Ingraffia