Quarantine gave students a chance to start their own business


During the pandemic, students have turned to starting businesses in everything from homemade desserts to clothing and accessories. Photos (clockwise from top left) courtesy of Lizbeth Sanchez, Madisyn Burke, Melissa Vergara and Sophia Awuzie.

By Jocelyn Ramirez and Isabella Bryant

What was once going into a bakery and having the sweet aroma hit your face or running into a shop to look at all of the cute clothes and crafts, is now scrolling online and finding everything you need from the comfort of your couch.  

Some students from Lane have used this shift to their advantage. Through this difficult time, they’ve managed to run their own small businesses, selling their own work on Etsy or other small business platforms. Students have been able to get a source of income and a creative outlet from their small business.

Madisyn Burke, Div. 451, who runs CreationzFromMadz, found that quarantine brought out her creativity even more with the boredom and free time that she has had.

“I just decided to open up an Etsy shop and start selling the things that I create, for fun,” Burke said. “My art is really an expression of unspoken emotions that I’m feeling, including people of color and current world movements.”

Many small business owners said their motivation for opening a business was because they wanted to pursue their passion and continue to do what they love. 

Burke runs her business all by herself. She has a shop on Etsy, a website focused on selling handmade or vintage items and personal creations. Burke’s costs include a monthly payment of $20 per month for her P.O. box, and a separate payment to her manufacturer which can be up to $150 depending on the product and what she tries to make. Costs also include simple materials such as sketchbooks and markers.

Burke sells pieces such as bags, stickers and downloadable prints.

“My two sided bags go for $20. My one-sided bags go for $15,” Burke said. “I really try to make my prices reasonable just because I feel like as a young person, myself, I don’t like when things are expensive but I still want them to be worth it, too,” she said.

It takes her a week to create her designs, drawing them multiple times because she’s a perfectionist, she says. Then she colors them in. Finally, when she likes the design, she sends it to her manufacturer to get approval if they are able to make the product. When approved, they ship her the finished product.

“I really like my business because it’s personal to me,” Burke said. “It’s something that I enjoy and I really wouldn’t want to turn it into some big corporation, but I do see myself still sticking to art in the future. I don’t know how long this business might go on or how much it might change in the future. I’m just kind of sticking to the present right now.”

Burke struggled when she first opened up due to some dry periods where she didn’t get any sales at all. She acknowledged the dedication that it takes.  

“It kind of took a lot out of me to just stick with it and knowing that you’re not always gonna succeed in everything you do,” she said.

The biggest dry period for many small businesses in general was the beginning of COVID-19.  Many shifted to online platforms in order to keep their small businesses running during the pandemic.

Sophia Awuzie, Div. 369, said, “COVID-19 decreased my sales, probably by 200%…but it [gave] me motivation to run my business without sales.” Awuzie is the owner of Sifferent Selections, a store full of “items that give each girl a new and cute look.” At times when no one is buying from her, she continues to stay motivated and improve her inventory. 

In order to keep business flowing, the owners need to know their customer — owners need to know what their customers want and what they like. Awuzie keeps this in mind when she creates and sells items that she thinks people her age would buy.

Although some inspiration comes from what the customer will like, inspiration also comes from the people that surround you.

“My grandma was actually a professional chef [and] she was good,” said Lizbeth Sanchez, Div. 274, the owner of a baked goods business.  

Melissa Vergara, Div. 385, runs her business through an Instagram account, named melissas.berries, where she makes custom sweets. 

“My brother thought, ‘why don’t you make some for us?’ And then I did. Everyone liked them. So it started from there since there’s nobody else in my area who did it,” Vergara said.

Baked goods and sweet treats have been a big hit due to the pandemic. People have become more isolated to stay safe, but they still want to have good food to snack on at home. 

Although the demand for baked goods has increased, so has the competition.

“There kinda is competition depending on how many people are in your area,” Sanchez said.

Before Valentine’s day, Sanchez practiced how to make roses with chocolate fondant, because she knew her customers would want Valentine’s Day sweets. 

In the beginning, Vergara said, she was underpricing her items, but once she did more research she finally set a good price based on the quality of her items.

“I was a beginner,” Vergara said. “I didn’t want to charge too much because I thought nobody would buy stuff. But right now I have set prices. So I would do a dozen of plain strawberries, with drizzle, or a simple design for $20. And then it just goes up depending on the designs.” 

Vergara manages her time during the week between her orders and her homework. She receives on average, two orders per day. She starts early in the morning, depending on when customers pick up their goods, making sure to start two hours in advance. 

“I have to wash the berries and then I have to make sure everything is really dry or some of the chocolate won’t stick to them and it’s time-consuming, but it’s not hard work,” Vergara said.

Most of her inspiration is based on what her customers suggest and looking at other ideas from people who also make custom sweets. Vergara said she hopes to expand her platform in the future.

These hobbies have also turned into potential careers for some, too. After thinking about her future, Awuzie realized she has “learned so much from this business and now I can use it and make it something different and something better.”

Vergara gave some insight to future small business owners: “Know how to control yourself because if you make a mess, or if you mess up, make sure you’re surrounded by at least someone who supports you,” Vergara said. “Make sure you’re doing something you like, just make sure you enjoy it. So it’s not just work.”