Small businesses are popping up all the time, but some entrepreneurs might be closer than you think. Students on campus have created their own businesses. These businesses range from custom jewelry orders to baked good and personalized art commissions.
Charlotte Weinstein, a sophomore majoring in international relations and minoring in business, operates an on-campus bakery business called Castle Creations in the Honors Village dorms partnered with Lauren Faulkner, editor of the Community section in The Marlin Chronicle. Castle Creations started this past August before the fall semester started.
“I assumed Castle Creations would be small just within Village IV, but I was surprised by the outreach of people who my friends knew and people I knew helped the business grow to other parts of the campus,” Weinstein said.
Cupcakes, cookies and brownies sell fast as an easy grab-and-go purchase at the Honors Village. “If you ever need something small and quick that’s cheap and gives you a little bit of sugar rush, I definitely would go for our brownies and cupcakes,” Weinstein said. Popular dessert items are the salted caramel brownies, chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, and chocolate lover’s cupcakes.
There is also a flavor of the week for each dessert item and Weinstein asks for feedback from students by providing polls to give customers a voice about their interests in different dessert options. The cupcake of the week has a discount deal for $2-3 and customers can purchase a dozen at a discounted price as a part of the promotion. “We are always asking students about what they would like and open to hearing what they would like to see from us,” Weinstein said.
As any starting entrepreneur, there is a process of building a business from making a brand name to creating a product, marketing it and much more. “The most difficult part of starting my business was pricing my desserts. I’ve been baking for years so a lot of my recipes are perfected.
It wasn’t a trial and error process, but more of tweaking it to cater to the customer’s wants. It was definitely hard to create a name because I didn’t want to include my name. I wanted the business to be a representation of me and my business partner. We developed the brand name Castle Creations because of our love of Disney,” Weinstein said.
“ I always look forward to what I can do to keep changing and adapting to customer’s preferences for our business,” Weinstein said.
Students who dream of making a small business, but are not sure where to start, may benefit from Weinstein who shares her word of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.“We heavily rely on technology and social media to get the word out. You have to be able to market yourself, and especially with COVID-19 you need to be accessible online,” Weinstein said.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, students purchase baked goods at Weinstein’s townhouse in the Honors Village from the door as a grab-and-go to limit the number of students entering dorm rooms.
Despite other eateries off-campus near VWU, Castle Creations stands out with the quality of their dessert items attending to their customer’s wants and its convenience to stop by while being on campus. “It’s a slice of home. Castle Creations create all desserts entirely homemade and all from scratch. I pour everything that I have into everything that I do because it’s a passion of mine. It’s reflective through the taste, quality and how much I strive for excellence in presentation,” Weinstein said.
“I love seeing first-time customers bite into their first dessert item from Castle Creations and say ‘it’s amazing.’”
Stop by The Honors Village to buy a sweet treat right on campus and follow @castle_creations_co on Instagram or @CastleCreationsCompany on Facebook to make an order for their desserts.
ART BY HOPE
Senior Hope Burleson, while studying biology with a concentration in pre-medicine and minoring in psychology, owns Art by Hope, an art business that creates designs for client’s Vans, clothing items, stickers, and tattoos. Burleson began her love of creating art and selling her work in high school. “I started doing paintings or commissioning artwork in HS. I got really sick that I had to stay home for a long time that I painted in the meantime,” Burleson said.
Burleson makes her business personable and creative by communicating with her clients about their preferences in the design and style of their desired product. Her favorite part of running her own business is being able to communicate with someone and developing something new as an artist to add her touch to it.
“I want customers to feel comfortable that they can express their ideas to me and hopefully I can bring those ideas to life. I feel that’s the benefit of my business to meet the client’s desire and expectations for wanting their tattoo to be a certain way,” Burleson said. She communicates with her clients to encourage the growth of ideas and work together to build off of them.
Creating a business takes time to get underway, and Burleson shares her experience of starting Art by Hope. “Developing my business was very step-by-step. I wasn’t sure how I would plan it out, but I used Instagram to connect with people,” Burleson adds.
“My biggest goal was getting in touch with people. I wanted to establish strong relationships with people. Typically people would send a pic or description of what they lack and then unfold it and see how to change, develop, enhance a person’s idea. I like having that fluid communication with my client,” Burleson said.
Taking advice from Burleson, a love for one’s craft is crucial to any aspiring entrepreneur’s start. “You need passion, devotion and commitment. One you have to be very passionate about what you are creating or trying to sell. Two, you have to put so much time to make a high-quality product. Three, you will have to follow through because it takes a lot of time, effort and energy,” Burleson said.
Check out Burleson’s art pieces on her Instagram @artby_hope_ and send her a message to share an idea on customizing a product and further details in ordering.
SWEET CAROLINE’S CREATIONS
The next business caters to jewelry lovers and tumbler fanatics. Senior Caroline Domo is the owner of Sweet Caroline’s Creations and makes homemade authentic custom jewelry and tumblers. Domo started Sweet Caroline’s Creations in June 2019.
“I’ve loved jewelry probably since I was born and then I realized that you can’t wear fancy jewelry everywhere, so you need to look for more other pieces. Part of creating my own jewelry is having something for everyone and every occasion,” Domo said.
“My favorite jewelry product on my Instagram page is called the classic crochet necklace. I feel that it’s my signature accessory. It’s simple enough to wear it with anything.”
She takes great pride in building her business on social media by gaining 500 followers in a couple of weeks on Instagram to get the word out on Sweet Caroline’s Creations. Alongside her jewelry creations are customized tumblers. “I started out by making my family and friends jewelry. My business grew mostly by word of mouth and then that quickly progressed into an Instagram page. People wanted me to sign up for craft shows, which then inspired me to go towards the custom tumbler idea,” Domo said.
There were some challenges that Domo was confronted with due to COVID-19 impacting small businesses’ operations, but that has not stopped her. She has found success using the post office and promoting online, where customers could see products right on their phones.
Sweet Caroline’s Creations strives to be unique and set themselves apart from other jewelry making competitors by creating her own. “When I want to create a new piece, I don’t like going to Etsy, Pinterest or Google. I try to keep it original and different from what everybody else sees amongst other pages, so I 100% have my own ideas, which is hard to do considering how many people there are out there that have jewelry businesses,” Domo said.
Domo is looking forward to expanding Sweet Caroline’s Creations on Etsy shop and selling jewelry in boutiques. “I’m thinking of expanding my business after graduation, when I move back home, hopefully, I will secure a full-time job, and then for a hobby, I would like to open a little table or booth at local boutique stores to rent. My goal is to sell my jewelry at booths and different boutiques,” Domo said.
Take a look at @sweetcarolines.sweetcreations on Instagram to order customized jewelry or tumblers for a personal and unique touch from her business.
JENNIFER VEGA’S ACCESSORIES
If you’re looking for a one stop shop for cute accessories and masks, this next business is just for you. Senior Jennifer Vega started a business making face masks and hair accessories this year a couple of months before October. Vega was inspired to explore sewing from the people on a deep personal level. “Most of the women in my life were seamstresses. My mother, grandmother and several of my aunts sewed and did embroidery. It inspired me to learn to sew as well,” Vega said.
“It started by making a skirt with Marvel characters and ever since then I went into sewing.”
Her products are inspired by holiday festivity themes and people who adore cute things. She is looking forward to making Christmas themed products after she sells her Halloween masks and hair accessories.
“Specifically, I’m trying to sell seasonal masks and make it a theme. Right now, it’s Halloween themed so I made spider web and ghost face masks. Once Halloween is over, I’ll start looking at fabric stores for Christmas fabrics, maybe snowman or Santa hats. I’m trying to keep it themed throughout the year, and I think that’s super cute. I think a lot of people without even thinking about it want to be festive at certain times of the year,” Vega said.
Vega wants first-time customers to know she appreciates their time and support to look at her shop on Depop and purchase her products by adding a personal touch to the packages. “I include the handwritten thank you note in my packages. I also include the stickers because it’s telling them thank you for supporting a small business and that’s really great and you deserve a treat for that,” Vega said.
Even though COVID-19 posed a problem to small businesses, Vega jumped on the bandwagon to open her business to sell masks because of the pandemic. “I thought I could do that too, I can make masks. I’ve been sewing since I was 14, so I can do it. Then I opened my Depop shop and began advertising it on my Instagram and Snapchat,” Vega said.
Future entrepreneurs at VWU who don’t know the necessary skills to start a business successfully might want to hear Vega’s recommendation. “At the very minimum, have some organization skills to be able to keep track of your orders, know who ordered what, notice how much a customer owes you, and be aware of what exactly a customer ordered,” Vega said.
She has been looking at more ways that she can expand her skillset and making products for business by learning new techniques in sewing. “I do want to learn to make more things and currently looking into what other kinds of accessories that I can make given my skill set, which is mostly just sewing. I’ve recently been learning embroidery, so I could probably put some embroidered sweaters in my shop, but that takes time. So I’m probably going to do that over the break,” Vega said.
“I’m going to buy more fabric as new seasons come, but I think it’s really cute that you can get your mask to match your scrunchie or hair bow that you bought from my shop. I wanted to provide something for people that do get that enthusiastic for the holidays.”
Reach out to Vega on her Instagram @jenni_frmthblock and order her seasonal themed face masks or hair accessories on depop.com/jennifrmthblock.
By Tiffany Warren