Stickers of Billy the Bronco styled as different majors along with other merchandise for sale at the Flipped Dimension booth. Daisette Verdin | The Poly Post

CPP students turn passions into profits

By Daisette Verdin, May 7, 2024

Driven by ambition and a passion for creativity, these Cal Poly Pomona entrepreneurs are redefining success one start-up at a time.   

What started as a mother and son project for a virtual art fair, organizational communication student Mazel Higa-Kazuma started making Maddluc Dolls. These handmade dolls represent people from Indigenous islands specifically from a small island called Palau –which holds the culture Higa-Kazuma grew up around, but she is originally from Saipan.  

“There’s so many stories in all these little places that we forget that there’s such rich culture not just here, but everywhere,” said Higa-Kazuma. 

She also made dolls to represent the surrounding islands in Micronesia, dressing them in cultural attire. Higa-Kazuma also uses her Instagram profile to sell and inform buyers of the inspiration behind the dolls by including real-life pictures.  

“That’s my goal. It’s not about making money or being a full-fledged business, I just want to tell stories,” said Higa-Kazuma.

Album cover titled “Mamang and the Gang.” Mamang means grandma in Paulan. Courtesy of Maddluc

Entrepreneurs start their small businesses for various reasons, but what makes a transaction successful is the experience customers walk away with once it’s complete.

Christian Nunez (2021, plant science) values making his customers happy and making connections with them when they hang out at his booth, which is set up in the University Park. To make students feel connected he created stickers of Billy the Bronco dressed up for every major on campus so that people could “have a little piece of Billy with them.” 

“I think being busy and having that motivation of making something for someone else and making them happy made me happy,” said Nunez.  

Since 2020, Nunez has been generating new ideas and business plans for his Etsy store, Flipped Dimension, collaborating with CPP’s Career Center, The Collins College and the Rose Float. He will also set up his booth at the Los Angeles County Fair this month.  

“I started to think of my business as a tree,” said Nunez. “So, the base is what I have, like the designs for Billy, and then the branches are the other products that I have for it that are produced based on the design.” 

Although creativity came naturally to Nunez, the idea of interacting with others and setting up as a vendor produced feelings of anxiety. He knew if he wanted to sell a product, he was going to have to display his merchandise to the public and embrace the discomfort of putting himself out there.

Stickers of Billy the Bronco styled as different majors along with other merchandise for sale at the Flipped Dimension booth. Daisette Verdin | The Poly Post

When it comes to running a small business, it can seem like a process of trial and error. This can be intimidating to some new business owners. Kelly Alberto, a political science student, advised not to give up in the face of uncertainties and challenges.  

“Even me sometimes with a little bit of a social media following, there’ll be some days that I won’t have any orders and then there are two weeks out I’m fully booked,” said Alberto. “I’m panicking. So just not giving up and practicing. Practice makes perfect. Nobody was born being good at what they do. It takes hard work.” 

Alberto owns a floral shop on Instagram called Albertos Flowers and is fairly new to the small business scene. Starting less than a year ago, she was inspired by TikTok videos of people starting their own flower business selling customizable flower arrangements.  

While having a small business can bring extra income for college students, finding a balance between business aspects and the enjoyment of doing a passion can be just as rewarding. 

“Letting yourself have different passions outside of your major and school is really important,” said Alberto. “Sometimes school is all you think about. You get so consumed in school that you forget to follow your other passions when you have a chance.”


Fifty white roses and purple Pompom Mums with a crochet cow plushie made for an anniversary celebration by Albertos Flowers. Daisette Verdin | The Poly Post

Feature image courtesy of Daisette Verdin

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