Students turn art into online stores

When senior Sohini Thota was 12, her mother handed her a hook and recommended she learn the trade. A few YouTube tutorials and several years later, Thota has turned his artistic passion into a growing business.

While the overlap between school and work can be tricky, Thota isn’t the only Loyolan who’s found ways to start a creative business right from her bedroom. Students have created small businesses from new passions and lifelong hobbies.

Ella Govrik Sohini Thota sells her artwork on Etsy and Instagram.

From organizing product giveaways to getting followers all the way to the Netherlands, these students have found satisfaction in turning their artistic passions into their own small businesses.

Freshman Flannery Meekin started her online business, Flan’s Rings and Things (@flansringsandthings), via Instagram in November 2021. Her page features modeled photographs of handmade jewelry, such as wire rings, earrings, and pearl necklaces.

Meekin, 20, worked as a summer camp counselor during the summer of 2021 where she ran an arts and crafts activity for campers. She took the opportunity to start making her own jewelry with camp supplies and quickly found an appreciation for the craft.

Ella Govrik Most of Flannery Meekin’s handcrafted creations are inspired by nature.

“I went to buy my own beading stuff and just started making it for my friends, and people were like, ‘You should sell it,'” the environmental science major said.

While Meekin’s business grew out of a recent creative endeavor, Thota launched her business after several years of crocheting as a hobby.

Some of Thota’s products include beanies and plushies, as well as commissioned pieces. She said she started selling her designs in November 2020 to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was so much downtime,” 22-year-old Thota said. “I would be in my online classes under the camera crocheting.”

She runs a blog, with instagramTwitter, TikTok and Etsy accounts under the username @yarnstitchie to promote her crochet creations and receive order forms.

Courtesy of Flannery Meekin Flannery Meekin’s handmade jewelry is adorned with gold, silver or black beads and threads.

Lily Chen, a junior film and digital media student, started selling greeting cards in the summer of 2021. She said her business originated as a way to encourage artistic creation and hold herself accountable for the sharing his creations rather than earning money.

Her online store, named Mixed Feelings, offers hand-drawn, painted, and printed greeting cards. She sells her art through her instagram and Etsy pages, @mixedfeelingssart.

Courtesy of Lily Chen Lily Chen said she made art for herself.

Many of Chen’s plays feature birds and celestial bodies as subjects, often accompanied by short quotes and poetic phrases. She said the name of her shop was inspired by her biracial identity and the type of art she creates.

“The ideas I have are always very conscious types of thoughts,” Chen, 20, said. “My sister suggested the ‘mixed feelings’ thing more for my family identity, and it also works in keeping with the pieces I do.”

When it comes to balancing school and their businesses, all three students said it takes effort. While Chen tries to bend to the waves of creativity, Meekin and Thota tend to follow stricter schedules.

Meekin said blocking out time is important to maintaining success in school and in her business, so she takes advantage of her lighter class schedule on Mondays to create jewelry, send packages and do inventory.

Similarly, Thota said planning for work and school helps him manage his time. She devotes her days to schoolwork and her two jobs on campus and her nights crocheting. This sometimes keeps her from hanging out with friends, but she says she still likes being able to keep her business going as a side hustle.

Courtesy of Sohini Thota Sohini Thota’s crocheted Valentine’s Day stripes were her top-selling product.

Chen said she often struggled to find time to create art when she felt stressed out about school. Although she said she has improved her ability to balance these aspects of her life, it is something she is still actively working on.

“I feel like I’m so hooked on academics that I’m like, ‘I have to do this homework,'” Chen said. “I always want to spend more time on art, but I think I’m best when I feel creative, letting myself play with it a little more.”

Thota said she has really enjoyed running her own small business and she encourages others to consider using their creative outlet as a way to earn money as well.

“Running a small business on the side keeps me sane,” she said.

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