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    • Grace Rhatigan ’21 displays thrifted clothing on her public Instagram page, @thriftwgrace.

    • Abby Regan ’22 posts pictures of her most recent creations for her followers and potential customers to view.

Small Businesses Thrive in the Wake of Quarantine

Megan Davis ’23 Assistant Features Editor
In the many months spent at home throughout the past year, several members of the Hopkins community have tuned into their entrepreneurial instincts, starting their own small businesses and online shops, selling clothes, jewelry, and more.
Instagram accounts that sell clothes sourced from thrift shops have increased in popularity over the course of the pandemic, and continue to thrive. Grace Rhatigan ’21 “resell[s] thrifted/used clothing on [my]Instagram account @thriftwgrace.” While she originally sold her own clothes, now Rhatigan “sources most of [my] inventory from local Goodwills, but also do[es] commissions for friends.”

When Rhatigan created her Instagram account at the beginning of quarantine last March, her goal was to sell her old clothes to “declutter my closet and make some money, but after speaking with other thrift accounts [owners on Instagram], I realized that there are many more benefits.” She continues: “The textile industry is one of the most wasteful, especially with the recent rise of fast fashion. Now, I thrift as a sustainable alternative, and I believe curating for others can help make thrifting more appealing and widespread.”

Rhatigan enjoys maintaining her online shop because it sits at the intersection of her many interests, but it does take a lot of dedication and energy. She shares, “I am interested in fashion and graphic design, so my small business acts as a creative outlet. I [also] love shopping, styling outfits, creating logos and graphics, and taking and editing photos.” How- ever, her business is a time-consuming pastime. Rhatigan must “manage every step of the process. I can spend up to five hours a week in thrift stores simply sourcing inventory. Then, once I find enough pieces, I have to wash everything, take and edit photos, communicate with customers, and package and ship the items out to their new homes. I also invest money into the business, but my time is the most valuable [investment].”

Other students have turned to Depop, a popular fashion marketplace app where anyone can buy and sell items. Amalia Tuchmann ’23 uses her Depop account in her spare time to make some extra money off of clothes she has outgrown. Instead of letting old clothing sit in her closet, Tuchmann “wanted [her clothes] to instead go to someone who would get use out of them. If something doesn’t sell on my Depop after a little while, I will donate it.” From the moment she downloaded the app, she unexpectedly encountered challenges that face every entrepreneur. Tuchmann reflects, “ I learned that in order to sell something, you have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. For instance, when I’m writing the tags that go in the description under my item, I have to think about what someone would search if they were looking for this item, not just words I personally would use to describe it.” The experience has been rewarding to Tuchmann in other ways as well. “My favorite part about running my account is the positive interactions I receive from people buying my clothes, who tell me about how they will wear the item or how much they love it!”

Other students have taken to Etsy to sell their wares. Sophia Neilson ’23 and JJ Drummond ’22 use it to create their handmade novelty earring shop, DreamEarrings. The two started the shop “in January 2021 after deciding to combine [Neilson’s] love for crafting and creating and [Drummond’s] interest in business. Also, we thought it would be a fun thing to do and that maybe we’d turn something fun for us into something successful!”

Aside from selling earrings on Etsy and mailing them to customers, Drummond and Neilson also set up booths at craft fairs to sell in person. Neilson shares that “selling at markets is when we do some of our best business! I think it really helps for people to be able to see what they’re going to purchase in person before buying it. There’s also a great sense of community between the vendors that you don’t really get when you’re selling online.” Drummond adds she enjoys seeing “the number of entrepreneurs starting a business in our towns. It really is like a small community of individuals who all want [to pursue] a hobby or interest for [their] work.” Neilson has acquired several important life skills from her entrepreneurial journey. She says there is “a lot [of] communication skills and problem-solving [involved]...I think owning a business has prepared me for the future while also helping me advance in the present.”

Some students’ small businesses grew out of existing passions and hobbies. Abby Regan ’22 makes a variety of baked goods and markets them on her Instagram @abby- regan_bakes. Regan also does commissions for friends and family who want to try her creations. She explains how she used baking to keep her spirits high during the worst of the pandemic. “I love baking for people because it is a way for me to connect with others. During lockdown, when I began baking, I always delivered it to people in person, outside and socially distant, and it meant so much that I was able to see my friends and family and still be safe during the pandemic.” With her homework load, however, it is “challenging sometimes to make time to bake. It’s time-consuming and especially challenging when I mess up. But, my family loves to eat all the cupcakes that were poorly frosted!”

Drummond offers a piece of advice for other students who are interested in starting their own businesses: “Don’t start a business if you don’t have a passion for what you do. Take the time to really choose something you are excited to do. From there, your passion and love for your business will drive your success and planning.”
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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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