‘It’s been an exciting adventure’: Belles discuss running small businesses
Genevieve Coleman | Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The Observer interviewed five Saint Mary’s students about running small businesses and the importance of female entrepreneurship. Here are their stories.
Sophomore Anna Guerra started making rings three weeks ago and credited family and friends for encouraging her to start selling them online.
“I was thinking of ways to make some money and I thought these rings were a hot trend,” Guerra said. “My sisters encouraged me to post on social media and to start selling them, so without their help and my friends, I wouldn’t have started this little business.”
After struggling to find jewelry for herself, Guerra hopes she can create pieces that cater to everyone.
“My main goal is to make cute rings that fit each and every finger,“ Guerra said. “I go into boutiques and see the coolest rings, but none of them fit [me], so I thought ‘Why not create what I want?’”
According to Guerra, people quickly bought her merchandise.
“Within the first two weeks I sold over 100 rings and girls have been very generous in reposting and spreading the word,” Guerra said.
Guerra described her excitement when more people discovered her rings.
“It amazes me how fast the word spreads and how happy girls are receiving these rings,” she said. “I’ve even shipped rings out to Boston and Ohio and have connections at Notre Dame and other colleges, thanks to friends.”
Speaking about her experience so far, Guerra commented on how she has felt empowered while running her small business.
“I’ve learned that if I have this image that most girls probably do too, but I’m going to be the one to start it and run with it for as long as it goes,” she said.
Giving advice to those who want to start a small business, Guerra encouraged others to try setting one up.
“For those wanting to start a small business, I say do it,” Guerra said. “What’s the worst that can happen? Because in the end, you never know who’s interested until you try.”
Junior Abigail Pinnow started uploading designs on Redbubble, a website that turns user’s designs into merchandise to be sold, when she realized she had an idea she thought other people would like.
“I pretty much started it because I had one idea for a sticker that I thought was really funny,” Pinnow said. “It says ‘I heart my haunted women’s college,’ and I tried looking for it online and I realized no one had made it and I thought ‘You know what, I bet people would enjoy this,’ because, you know, it’s fun, it’s silly — and that still is my very best seller.”
Pinnow noted she didn’t expect her first design to sell as well as it did.
“I made this little design and I uploaded it, kind of not really expecting anything to come of it,” Pinnow said. “Just like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll make like a couple bucks,’ but I think a decent amount [of money] has come from it.”
Pinnow also creates designs based on what she finds interesting in pop culture, she said.
“I still upload things that I think, ‘Oh, this is fun. This is a cute little design’ — typically for things like movies or podcasts,” she said.
Pinnow said she still makes new designs but mostly focuses on other art forms.
“It’s one of those things I really mostly do when I have like a really good idea,” Pinnow said. “I typically don’t see Redbubble as my main art resource. It’s something I just get a little supplemental income from.”
Pinnow also encouraged others to set up their own Redbubble shops because they are simple to maintain.
“If you’re thinking about it, just do it,” Pinnow said. “Because it’s easy to set up [and] it’s easy to deal with.”
Kalli Jungles, The Center Part Sisters
Sophomore Kalli Jungles and her sister Kassidy Jungles (’20) started their small business — Center Part Sisters — during quarantine. They began by making bracelets before branching off into sunglasses.
“We ended up making friendship bracelets with beading,” Jungles said. “And then around that same time, there was a TikTok trend that came out and people were making sunglasses with beads. And my sister’s like, ‘That’d be so cool if we can make sunglasses to match our bracelets that we’re making for football season.’”
After the sisters decided to try their new idea out, the project never lost momentum, Jungles said.
“We’re like, ‘Let’s just order a pack of 20 sunglasses and see how it goes,’” she said. “We made those 20 and we sold out super quick. Just from there, we decided, ‘You know what, let’s just keep going with it until people kind of get tired of the designs.’ But so far, that hasn’t been the case.”
Jungles noted that Center Part Sisters is thinking about venturing into thrifted clothing.
“Just seeing the success that we’ve had, I think we definitely would like to start incorporating new designs and new ideas, Jungles said. “My sister and I also really love thrifting. … Obviously, with COVID, we’re not going out and shopping, but that’s definitely a direction that we’re kind of considering for the future, in trying to offer college students affordable, thrifted clothing.”
Jungles wanted students to know that even though small businesses require a lot of time, they are definitely worth the effort.
“I think you’ll be surprised if you like the product that you’re wanting to make. I can guarantee you there’s tons of other people who want that same product,” Jungles said. “And it’s a lot of work, a lot of dedication, but at the same time, it’s something to be super proud of.”
Jungles also wished people support other small businesses, especially other female entrepreneurs at Saint Mary’s.
“Obviously, we would love for you to support us, but also support other Saint Mary’s girls,” Jungles said. “There’s lots of girls making really nifty and crafty things right now, and I think it’s just as great if we can all support each other and kind of continue supporting female entrepreneurship.”
Morgan Suchecki, Belle Yeah Designs
Sophomore Morgan Suchecki said she started her small business Belle Yeah Designs in January and is proud of the following she has received.
“I started with zero followers and started with only following my friends,” she said. “Now I have 101 followers, which is definitely a step [up] from zero and a big step for a small business.”
Taking design requests through Instagram, Suchecki said she specializes in making digital art in Procreate.
“My customers [message me] on my Belle Yeah Designs account on Instagram,” Suchecki said. “They send me what their request is, like editing photos or digital art. I mainly get customers for digital art. The customer sends the picture, and it is done and sent to them the next day or later [the same] day, depending on what the image is like.”
In the future, Suchecki is thinking about growing her small business.
“I have considered expanding but with school right now, I have been very busy,” she said. “I am thinking of starting my own Redbubble account and making stickers this summer.”
Suchecki advised students starting small businesses to persevere through the difficulties.
“The advice I have for other students wanting to start a small business is don’t give up,” Suchecki said. “I have wanted to give up so many times, and I still want to give up because many people don’t buy a lot, even though it’s at a lower price than other small businesses. Every small business starts out small, which I keep reminding myself.”
Annie Maher, Riverbend Goods
Sophomore Annie Maher said she started her small business Riverbend Goods after experiencing difficulty finding a job during the beginning of the pandemic.
“It was just getting really hard to find a job,” Maher said. “And so I decided, ‘Why not start selling cards?,’ which is what I originally started with because I had done some original cards for family members.”
Maher expanded her card designs by beginning to create stickers and notes, which led to an increased following on social media.
“I found a way to digitally draw all of my cards, and it started more as just my family supporting me,” Maher said. “Then I started making stickers as well, and that’s kind of when it started to work out for me — people actually started finding me, and I really started to use social media to try to reach new people.”
Highlighting nature in her designs, Maher noted she wanted to create things she and other people were passionate about.
“For a lot of my [designs], I’m definitely inspired by nature,” Maher said. “A lot of them are based on environmentalism or protecting the planet, because I think there are people out there who also believe that and want to show that just as I do.”
Maher described the many paths she is considering taking when growing Riverbend Goods in the future.
“You know, it’s one of those things where there’s so many things you want to do, and you’re just not sure where to go next,” Maher said. “So I’ve been thinking about starting to make key chains or starting to find a way to make embroidery designs for shirts. And then I also thought about making notebooks and calendars [or] planners — there’s a lot of directions I want to take it.”
Detailing her personal experience, Maher stated she has been pleased with how people have reacted to her products.
“I think it’s really fun,” Maher said. “I really enjoyed it. I think it’s just such a unique experience and such a validating experience for people you don’t even know to think that your art or your work is worth their money … I definitely think it’s been an exciting adventure.”
Maher hopes people continue supporting small businesses, even after the pandemic.
“Especially during the pandemic, I think small businesses really both took a hard hit and got a big spotlight shone on them,” Maher said. “And I think it’s important to keep that momentum going after everything’s said and done.”