Student-run small businesses birthed from pandemic-related inconveniences

Some students pursued entrepreneurship following pandemic restraints and newfound passions. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

When the nail salons shut down during the pandemic, freshman entrepreneurship major Carmen Sosa looked to fill the gap in the market herself by launching her own press-on nails company, Pretty Moment Shop.

Having to find alternatives to her usual nail routine, Sosa became more interested in applying press-on nails at home and had the idea to begin selling them so others interested could get theirs done at home.

“When I first started my business, it was really hard because no one really knows about you. So, I tried to market myself as much as I could,” Sosa said.

Sosa started small and struggled to get sales at first, so she expanded into homemade necklaces and lipgloss with hopes to increase profits. With the added products and increased marketing, she started to see more sales coming in.

When it came to marketing, Sosa’s main approach was through social media, specifically utilizing platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Utilizing the platforms equipped Sosa with a larger audience, spanning across the country and even to those abroad.

“TikTok probably gives me the most views. I show my different products, and I try to make my content more interesting,” Sosa said. “Marketing on social media is definitely very important when you have a small business that’s online because then you can reach out to people in other states and other countries.”

Freshman mechanical engineering major Nathan Cheng started his pressure washing business, Blue Penguin Pressure Washing, around the same time Sosa started her business, with goals to earn some extra cash. The chance to clean other homes was not only a way to make money, but to also get exercise while gyms were closed, according to Cheng.

Marketing in person and online, Cheng used yard signs and Craigslist advertisements to appeal to local customers with the promise of a free quote prior to the service.

Cheng only washed driveways at the start, but expanded to house exteriors, sidewalks and curbs as he gained more experience, which opened up more jobs.

While some students started small businesses as a way to make money, senior sociology major Alexander Austin started his company to write and tell stories through animation.

In November 2020, as he watched shows on various different streaming services, Austin was inspired to start his small business with UNF alum Jaden Durity, who could draw. Not an artist himself, Austin knew he could provide the stories, but needed the assistance of Durity to get the business going.

The partnership led to the founding of Full Couch, an animation company focused on fanciful storytelling.

Currently, Full Couch is seeing no income, but they have made investments to market their pitches and ideas, like a campaign they had at the beginning of their business.

While it may seem like the pandemic would make it more difficult to run a small business, it actually presented many opportunities to those starting small businesses at the time.

The pandemic had little impact on Cheng’s business since he does not have to work closely with the customers and driveways always get dirty, pandemic or not. The peak time for pressure washing is typically during the summer, which is when he opened his business last year.

In some ways, the pandemic actually helped Sosa start and grow her business as more people began to shop online, she said, since her business operates completely online. Online shopping has allowed Pretty Moment Shop to have a wider reach to potential customers across the state and the nation.

Similarly, Austin was able to reach out to more businesses and streaming services to pitch their stories and ideas. He had more time to find phone numbers and emails and reach out to these businesses, establishing these important connections online and through the phone.

If the business started outside of the pandemic, Austin stated he would travel more to share his ideas and go to the offices of streaming services and TV stations.

“If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would have gone to more places, I would just have went to them physically,” Austin said. “I would take a flight to California because Hollywood and Burbank are the epicenters of the film and animation world.”

Some students even plan to make their small business into a career after college. Austin hopes to create a streaming service with Full Couch, and Sosa hopes to continue and grow her business after she graduates and anticipates opening a physical store.

Before starting Pretty Moment Shop, Sosa was not sure what she wanted to do with her life and study during college, but once she started the small business she discovered her love for it.

“When I started my business, I was like, ‘This is something I actually want to do,’” Sosa said. “I could sit at a desk all day, preparing and packing orders and go ship them out and I’d be perfectly happy with life.”