Art

Small Business, Big Passion: Students Turn Art into Online Shops

Courtesy of Lily ChenMany of Chen’s handmade cards feature birds and other aspects of nature.

When senior Sohini Thota was 12 years old, her mom handed her a crochet hook and recommended she learn the craft. A few YouTube tutorials and several years later, Thota has turned her 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 build a creative business right out of her bedroom. Students have spawned small businesses from both newfound passions and long-time hobbies. 

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

From hosting product giveaways to having followers as far away as the Netherlands, these students have found satisfaction in turning their artistic passions into their own small businesses.   

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

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

Ella Govrik Most of Flannery Meekin’s handmade art is nature-inspired.

“I went and bought my own beading stuff and just started making them for my friends, and people were like, ‘You should sell these,’” the environmental science major said.

While Meekin’s business developed from a recent creative endeavor, Thota started her business after several years of crocheting as a hobby. 

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

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

She manages a blog, along with Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Etsy accounts under the username @yarnstitchie as ways of promoting her crocheted creations and receiving purchase orders.

Courtesy of Flannery Meekin Flannery Meekin’s handmade jewelry features beading and gold, silver or black wire.

Lily Chen, a junior film and digital media major, started selling greeting cards in summer 2021. She said her business originated as a way to encourage creating art and hold herself accountable for sharing her creations rather than to make money.

Her online shop, 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 makes art for herself.

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

“The ideas that I have are always very stream-of-consciousness types of thoughts,” Chen, 20, said. “My sister suggested the ‘mixed feelings’ thing more for my family’s identity, and it also works in line with the pieces that I make.”

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

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

Similarly, Thota said scheduling work and school helps her manage her time. She dedicates her days to schoolwork and her two on-campus jobs and her nights to crocheting. This occasionally prevents her from going out with friends, but she said she still enjoys being able to maintain her business as a side hustle. 

Courtesy of Sohini Thota Sohini Thota’s Valentine’s Day crocheted stingrays have been her most sold product.

Chen said she often struggles with finding time to create art when she feels stressed from school. While she said she has improved her ability to balance these aspects of her life, it’s something she’s still actively working on. 

“I feel like I get so hung up on academics that I’m like, ‘I have to do this assignment,’” Chen said. “I definitely still wish I spent more time on art, but I think I am better about when I feel creative, kind of letting myself mess with that 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 make money as well. 

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

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