Although the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on students’ finances, studies and career paths, the sudden available time became an opportunity for several Long Beach State students to take their creativity and turn it into a business.
Emily Marin, a second-year student majoring in computer engineering with a minor in cybersecurity, began painting in high school but decided to take it more seriously by opening an art account on Instagram during the pandemic.
Marin said she remembered charging someone $25 for her first art painting thinking it was a lot, but now she realized that her paintings are more valuable than that because they could take up to seven or eight hours. Marin said her most expensive paintings were three pieces sold for $320.
Although Marin continues to improve her art and master her work, art isn’t her endgame.
“I couldn’t see myself doing art as something serious in the future,” Marin said. “Maybe I’ll start doing murals or commissions for small businesses in my free time or when needed.”
Even though Marin doesn’t see her painting business as a possibility to turn into something more, she said, it is a way to earn some money for her books, art, school supplies and tuition.
While being a full-time student at CSULB can be hectic, Marin is able to manage her time by not scheduling her commissions when she is busy with school. Marin said school is always the priority, something she lets her buyers be aware of.
“My support system is for sure my family who has always believed in my creative side, my friends who convinced me into making the Instagram account and my followers,” Marin said.
Marin said she is thankful for anyone who views, likes and shares any of her art pieces from her account. The experience, she said, has been an escape from her classes and responsibilities.
“The things that motivate me to keep my business going is to be able to save money, help others get the painting they want and most of all, the support of my family, friends and followers who are always waiting to see my next art project,” Marin said.
Like Marin selling paintings, Jia Ning Lim used her time at home during the coronavirus pandemic to open up her business.
Lim, a fourth-year international student from Malaysia majoring in journalism, said she began Floweeryy, her online business on Instagram, as a gift to herself in December 2020, selling hand-knitted bags, handmade clay earrings, customized jewelry like earrings, necklaces and bracelets and trendy, fluffy bags.
“I started my brand for one reason, to build an environment where I could put my skills to good use,” Lim said.
Lim considers herself diverse in many trades as she has managed to learn skills including dancing, singing, baking, painting, drawing and sewing.
“I made the business kind of like my own creative space where everything is limited, trendy, affordable and just whatever I want to make,” Lim said.
Unlike Marin, Lim is striving for her business to become a full-time job soon. Lim recently added a new member to her team who is her best friend, and Lim said they’re excited for the next collection.
According to Lim, Floweeryy seems to be getting more attention due to the fact that people aren’t comfortable shopping inside a store. Lim said that the coronavirus pandemic is helping her business do better.
School is Lim’s main priority, and she said that the business is more of a hobby and a relaxing activity that helps her wind down. But, she is active with it, selling her products at flea markets and farmers markets.
Lim said she is motivated to keep her business going as she sees how much people love the things she makes, and with the support of her friends and family, Lim plans to sell at different markets and add more employees to potentially grow the business.
Ryann Ippolito, who is completing a Master of Social Work program at CSULB, began a new venture during the coronavirus pandemic and opened up an online business.
Alien Peach Designs focuses on custom, handmade embroidery and vintage Polaroids.
Ippolito, who said her favorite embroideries to do are portraits of celebrities and families, picked this hobby up during quarantine.
She said she didn’t have a hobby and wanted to change that, and when she came across an embroidery kit on Etsy, she was hooked right away. As Ippolito posted her designs on her Instagram account, Ippolito immediately received requests from people asking for commissions. Not too long after that, Ippolito opened an Etsy shop and expanded her business to include vintage-edited Polaroids.
Ippolito said she began this venture as a complete beginner and had no idea on how to even thread a needle. Within a short amount of time, Ippolito said Alien Peach Designs currently pays the bills and is getting her through graduate school.
“I am enjoying this journey so much and I see my skills increase with every piece I embroider,” Ippolito said, who plans to keep her business steady and hopes to have more time for it as soon as she completes her master’s degree.
According to Ippolito, Alien Peach Designs was able to partner with a group of fans supporting actor Pedro Pascal to sell Polaroid sets for charity sales, including a set that goes toward Hacking Hate Speech on Social Media in Chile, an organization working to remove the spread of hate speech, fake news and more.
Ippolito said she knew she to stay busy during the coronavirus pandemic, which motivated her to keep the business going.
“I also love seeing people’s faces when they receive their art or read the happy reviews on my Etsy,” Ippolito said, later adding, “I would definitely not have found this passion if it was not for COVID.”