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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Student-owned small businesses crafting and creating connections on campus

Aaliyah Barden (@shopliljoya) selling her lip care line and sunglasses at the Sunset Market event on Friday, May 3.  Stony Brook University allows students who run small businesses to showcase their talents around campus. EMILY CHAO/THE STATESMAN

In the Student Activities Center (SAC) and Frank Melville Jr. Memorial Library, dozens of colorful flyers pinned to bulletin boards promoted an eclectic range of club events, even featuring a band’s flyer looking for a drummer in the infamously-teased Papyrus font. Among the array of papers screaming at passersby, there are several advertisements for small businesses run by Stony Brook University students showcasing their talent and creativity.

Natalie Nee, a junior psychology major, learned how to create charming jewelry and accessories from her friend, inspiring her to sell her creations under the handle @nats_trinkies on Instagram. In an interview with The Statesman conducted through Instagram direct message, Nee shared her desire to provide “a more in-person experience” beyond her online presence, which led her to start promoting her items around campus. 

Natalie Nee (@nats_trinkies) at the Sunset Market event on Friday, May 3. Nee sells an assortment of accessories such as earrings, necklaces and phone charms. EMILY CHAO/THE STATESMAN

“I made flyers and put them everywhere. When I say everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE even in the bathrooms,” she wrote.

The increased campus visibility has paid off, as Nee’s favorite part about running her small business is “meeting new people and interacting with the other students on this campus.”

One of Nee’s recent connections with fellow small business owners is Holly Paik, a sophomore psychology major who runs @crocheted.by.holly on Instagram and sells customized crocheted accessories. Paik was inspired to learn how to crochet a year ago after watching her roommate pick up the hobby, and soon found herself obsessed with it. At the encouragement of her friends, she started her business at the start of the spring 2024 semester to share her crocheted creations.

Holly Paik (@crocheted.by.holly) with Stony Brook University’s mascot, Wolfie, holding a flyer for Holly’s crochet accessories business at the Women’s History Month Exposition event on March 22 at the SAC Plaza. PHOTO COURTESY OF NATALIE NEE

Paik wishes to extend the support she received to others. She wrote, “If there’s a new hobby or skill you’ve been meaning to learn … don’t be afraid to give it a try! It may be difficult at first, but don’t give up!”

Earlier in the semester, Nee and Paik teamed up to sell their accessories as a set. In an Instagram interview with The Statesman, Paik wrote, “[Nee] makes adorable jewelry and charms, which compliment my crocheted accessories very well.” She added “one of the [Instagram] Reels we filmed together garnered over 3 million views, which neither of us were expecting!”

Paik started an Instagram group chat for on-campus small business owners in March that now consists of over 20 small businesses. The members “support each other by providing encouragement and advice,” she wrote, adding that, “I feel very inspired by all of them.”

The support from fellow small businesses owners extends beyond the group chat. Aaliyah Barden, a junior health science major, runs @shopliljoya on Instagram where she sells her lip care line and sunglasses. She launched her business during her senior year of high school in 2020, inspired by the entrepreneurial spirits of her parents who owned a boutique. 

Regarding the community of small business owners at the University, Barden wrote in an interview over Instagram direct message with The Statesman that she always makes sure to actively support other student-owned small businesses by liking their posts and offering words of encouragement. She emphasized that the community has “helped me gain my confidence in myself to know I’m doing the right thing,” especially when she faces obstacles of not being taken seriously or being treated as if her business “isn’t a real job.” 

Barden had her first experience as a vendor at the Women’s History Month March and Exposition event on March 22 at the SAC Plaza alongside other women-owned businesses. Leading by example, Barden’s dream is “to help younger, minority women see that you can most definitely run [a] successful business.”

Several events on campus also provide student-owned businesses a chance to showcase and sell their creations. On April 20, the University’s anime club, Animated Perspectives, organized their annual anime and pop-culture convention Brook Con, including an Artist Alley held in SAC Ballroom A that featured some student vendors such as ArtsAficionado and Armadreaddon

Lillian King, who dressed in cosplay while crocheting amigurumi keychains at her Brook Con table, is a junior double majoring in biology and studio art. She shared in an interview over Instagram direct message with The Statesman that she discovered crocheting as a way to destress from study sessions. King goes by ArtsAficionado on Instagram and Etsy, selling crocheted creations and patterns. 

Lillian King dressed in cosplay while tabling at Brook Con on April 20. King runs her business under the name ArtsAficionado. PHOTO COURTESY OF AN NGUYEN

King’s business had been open for less than a month when she tabled at Brook Con. The idea sparked at a different event when the person sitting next to King asked her to make a crocheted keychain. After consulting friends, they encouraged her to give her business a try. 

Kaytie Tanoue, a junior information systems major, shared in an interview over Instagram direct message with The Statesman that crafting is also a way “to feel optimistic and recharged.” Tanoue goes by the artist name Armadreaddon on Instagram, initially creating macrame bracelets but later expanding by making keychains, hair accessories and stickers. 

Growing up, Tanoue was always into crafts, jumping from one hobby to another. The commonality through all her different hobbies was that “everything I made was something that my friends and I could wear or display as an accessory,” she wrote. 

In 2022, Tanoue experienced medical issues that resulted in a thyroid cancer diagnosis, requiring her to get surgery. Tanoue wrote, “the operation was a success and I am officially cancer free!” However, her recovery at times felt hopeless and tiresome, due to doctor appointments, treatments and a lack of productivity from her fatigue and troubles with concentration. 

Despite being unable to make bracelets during her recovery, Tanoue found a new outlet for her creativity. 

“I decided to brainstorm ideas and update my price formulas,” she wrote. “I also created a program in Java to calculate my prices for me, complete with a menu full of selections and input lines so I can put in values for wrist size, bracelet type, beading, etc.… What started out as something to do in between classes, breaks, and schoolwork became one of my passions and helped me continue to shine, even through my illness.”

However, running a business isn’t all fun and games. Many of these student business owners found time management the most challenging aspect of running a business, on top of finding time to study, work and relax, knowing that taking on too much can lead to burnout.

For others, customer service proves to be a feat when tabling at events. King wrote, “I am very introverted so I will try to maintain a warm presence during events but it drains my social battery super fast.”

However, despite the challenge, King finds joy in selling her creations “because it makes me happy people like my stuff.”

What often started for these students as hobbies and outlets to destress developed into fulfilling businesses with support from their friends and other student business owners. On top of their many responsibilities, they learn to juggle their businesses, sharing their crafts and connecting with the student body.

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