Money-Making Creativity: Student-Run Businesses

As we continue on through our teenage years, the need for finding a job becomes more pressing. Not only do we need to pay for gas and buy our own clothes, but we are also becoming more independent from our parents. Though not everyone works the usual minimum wage job. Instead, some use their creative abilities to make their own money.

Sophomore Karlisse Wills and senior Lillian Cusa are students at Masuk who have started their own online business to sell products they made themselves. Both have become fairly successful with an online presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy combined.

Karlisse Wills first got interested in jewelry making at the start of 2019, and before long, friends and family began asking where she bought her accessories. Soon after, she began selling to her friends and eventually decided to make her own Etsy shop where she was able to reach out to a larger group of customers. 

“I realized I could expand my business through Etsy, and from there I got a decent amount of orders around the United States, as well as some from Canada, Europe, and Puerto Rico,” said Wills.

Wills now sells her necklaces and bracelets at local shops such as The Mason Jar in Monroe and Olive My Stuff in Fairfield. She continues to sell on Etsy, already having over 450 purchases and plans to not only expand her sales to local businesses, but possibly create her own website.

Similar to Wills’ handmade creations, Lillian Cusa has been selling her own homemade masks as a response to the need during the pandemic.

“I kept seeing on the news how pollution has gone up because of all the disposable masks, and I wanted to make sure that all my friends and family had access to reusable masks with fun patterns,” explained Cusa.

Her work began in July when she first taught herself how to sew, and then only a month later, she launched her business on Facebook, selling masks with an array of unique fabric and mask styles to choose from. Since then, she has made steady business and has sold around 350 masks from more than 100 orders from around the country.

For Cusa and Wills, starting an online business was beneficial due to its unconventional hours and privileges that one may not get while working at a regular job. Both agreed that some of the most significant advantages were being your own boss and learning how to actually run your own business.

“The pros of an online business is that I get to make up my own schedule. I have deadlines to meet, but I set them myself. Being able to do my own thing is definitely a plus,” said Cusa.

However, both emphasize that owning an online business does not mean things will always run smoothly. Some disadvantages to remember are that you do not have the same social interaction as you would have with a regular job, and oftentimes, there may be customer issues you still have to deal with online.

“A con to running your own business is that you have to deal with unhappy customers. Usually, all the feedback I receive is positive, but some people expect products to be made differently, so it can be a struggle with working with those types of people,” Wills states.

While there are always negatives to running a business, these issues should not dissuade you from trying. Opening up your own online business will not be easy, and it will be risky, but it is always worth the shot.

“I would say don’t restrict yourself. If you see an opportunity just take it. I have never sewn in my life before this, and I just decided to teach myself because the opportunity presented itself,” explained Cusa.

“A piece of advice I would give to students is that starting a small business can take a lot of time and effort at first, but as time goes on, it will get a lot easier,” said Wills.

Starting your own online business or shop may be a bit frightening, but the knowledge you gain and making what you love will have lasting effects. Take it slowly, enjoy every minute of the learning process, and soon, you too may be like these two successful online business owners.

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