Due to social media support of small businesses and the extra time being spent socially distancing at home during the pandemic, some Cal Poly Pomona students have felt encouraged to launch their own businesses. While one of the most popular reasons to start a business is to earn extra income, there are also other reasons that student entrepreneurs have decided to give it a try.
Alexis Marquez, a fourth-year public relations student, is the founder of Keys and Things, a business that aims to help women feel safe by providing sets of keychains that include pepper spray, a concealable knife, a whistle, a window breaker and a lip gloss holder.
Recalling an incident when her 1-year-old niece was almost kidnapped from her car seat while in the car with her cousin, Marquez shared that the traumatic event became motivation to start her business in late September.
“There was a man walking around and my cousin was super aware of him, so she made sure to keep an eye on him,” Marquez said. “Right as he was getting too close to the car, he reached for the door and my cousin locked it right on time. He wouldn’t leave them alone, so my cousin called the cops and the man was arrested. She later found out that he had a warrant for his arrest for rape charges.”
For every keychain sold, Marquez donates a dollar to the A21 Campaign, an organization dedicated to ending slavery and human trafficking.
“Despite us being in a pandemic, we are also in an epidemic and that is the issue with human trafficking,” Marquez said.
After receiving inquiries regarding keychains for men and children, Marquez said she is planning to explore those options to expand her market. Although the business is new and ran fully through her Instagram account, it has been doing well, she added.
Aside from businesses selling specialized goods, other students are also demonstrating creativity with businesses ranging from selling food and snacks to creating art.
Crystal Gonzalez-Santillan, a fifth-year sociology student, is the co-owner of R’s Ceviche, a business that she created in collaboration with her boyfriend and alumnus Rafet Alonso (‘18, electronic systems engineering technology) in late September.
“We recently moved in together and noticed that there are a lot more expenses than we anticipated, so we started it to try to bring in extra money because we did not like living check-by-check,” Gonzalez-Santillan said.
The couple sells ceviche in platters and plates and offers catering services for small parties. Gonzalez-Santillan said the business is still small but is growing as they make sure to guarantee freshness and safe food preparation.
As the couple prepares the food at home, customers are given the option to pick up their food or select no-contact delivery.
While the pandemic has not affected their business, Gonzalez-Santillan said that people prefer to eat ceviche during warmer weather which is what she predicts will change the demand in the next few months. Nonetheless, they will still be taking orders to test the durability of the business.
Although most students created their businesses intentionally and with a specific purpose in mind, that wasn’t the case for Trinity Fraire, a third-year visual communication design student who said her art business, Trins Art Dream,started by accident in early May.
After posting one of her art pieces on social media, she received messages asking if she was selling her art to which she replied, “Oh! I guess, yes! I can definitely use the extra money.”
Fraire creates art pieces by request and also sells original pieces she creates herself. According to Fraire, the majority of the orders she receives are requests for specific art pieces, such as small unique paintings, customized wooden letters and bedazzled cups. Although she welcomes the opportunity, Fraire added that she gets nervous when she receives requests for portraits for fear of not meeting the expectations.
By shopping from small student-run businesses like these, customers are not only helping the businesses grow but they are also helping students pay bills and pay for school supplies. Supporting student entrepreneurs will also keep them motivated to continue running their business during these tough times.