Being a small business owner means being your own boss. It means freedom, creativity, ups and downs and, let’s not forget, a healthy dose of stress. When you’re a college student as well as a small business owner, all of these things become amplified.
I began my small shop on Etsy (an online and global marketplace for craftwork and vintage goods) as a creative outlet when I was 16. It was simply a hobby then and I never expected anything to come of it. It wasn’t a success at first. I made jewelry, I took photos of it, I listed it on Etsy, and I waited. Unfortunately I had no takers, and looking back, I understand why. I now know that I am not very good at jewelry making. Over time however, I got rid of the jewelry and developed new products as I discovered what I am good at: graphic design and trend spotting. Now I pick trends in pop culture, books, movies, etc., and turn them into coffee mugs, cards, wall art, and other products.
Now it is not uncommon to scroll through Pinterest and see one of my own products staring back at me, pinned by a complete stranger from the opposite side of the country. If someone had told me three years ago that I would have a lucrative small business that sells geeky coffee mugs with 2,300+ sales and 400 five-star reviews under my belt, I wouldn’t have believed them. To this day I’m still not sure I believe it, especially when I come across a photo of one of my mugs on Tumblr with almost 50,000 notes; it’s a bit staggering for a geek who just likes to play around on Photoshop in their free time.
It’s not all about success though. I have learned so much through my business as well. Need to know how much shipping a seven ounce package to New York City is? I’ve got you covered. Need to know how to precisely package a mug so that it won’t break on its way to London? No problem. Through my business I’ve had to deal with anything from grumpy post office workers to customers from Poland who have trouble with their English. It has made me feel in charge, powerful – unstoppable, even. Because when you’re a small business owner, and the only employee, in my case, you get the whole package. You’re not specialized in one specific process or function because you deal with everything. I communicate with thousands of customers over Etsy, I advertise over Instagram, I deal with all of the finances, as well as the designing, creating, photographing, packaging and shipping of all products. I truly feel prepared for whatever job is thrown at me in the future, whether it’s self-employment or working for someone else.
I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone down this path; my business has been so important in my life for the past few years. It has meant that my weekends are usually spend packaging up a small tower of boxes to be shipped out on Monday morning. It has meant that I didn’t have to work part-time for minimum wage at a fast food restaurant or retail store just to pay for gas. It has meant a lot of stress and a lot of worry, but it has also meant a lot of fun and creativity. So if I had to narrow it down how my small business has made me who I am today in just a few words, I’d say it has made me confident and has made me free.
This essay was written by Anne Marie Schudy, 1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Anne Marie and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Anne Marie or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.