With remote school and work becoming the norm, young people have found more time on their hands, and some have used it to build their own side businesses. With everyone already online more than usual, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have made entrepreneurship easier than ever. Social media is convenient, for both the seller and customer, and with a built-in audience and market, online businesses have seen a boom within the community.
Lollipops to spread kindness
Eastlake High School sophomores Bianca Timofte and Scarlett Lin, both 15, first got the idea to start a business last spring. The two friends had been chatting about ways to give back to the community and spread kindness amidst the difficulties of the last year.
“Coming off that idea, it would be a great learning opportunity for the two of us to start a business. After a lot of brainstorming, we came up with the idea of lollipops with kindness missions attached,” Timofte said.
While in quarantine, they had the time to pursue it, and soon obtained the necessary licenses and permits. For Timofte, it was most fun designing and being creative when building an Instagram page and website to promote their lollipop brand Superpops, which was launched on Sep. 1.
With Instagram, business owners can monitor content views and engagements to test what people like to see or what layouts tend to catch the eye of the audience. Tags and hashtags on public accounts also help reach more people beyond an account’s following, because people who follow certain tags are directed to accounts linked to the tags.
“Instagram is a super efficient way to reach people, especially with COVID recently. In-person advertising is not feasible currently for us, but Instagram has increased our connection to the community so much,” Timofte said.
Skye Aldrich, 23, a Gonzaga graduate and current engineer at Boeing, has pursued her own side business on Instagram: Said With a Stitch. Launched in early February, the business was inspired by the strong women in Aldrich’s life. Aldrich embroiders feminist-inspired phrases like “Smash the patriarchy” onto shirts and takes custom orders as well. She shares images of upcoming designs, colors and styles to her following online, keeping her audience updated on what’s coming next.
With little knowledge about being an entrepreneur or business owner, Aldrich decided to start out small on Instagram, gearing her marketing towards family and friends. She gradually branched out to reach more people on Instagram, contributing to the initial launch being more successful than she had anticipated.
“I think social media presence is something that is becoming increasingly important for all businesses and as a small business word of mouth is huge, so I’ve gotten a lot of my followers and customers from my friends and family who have shared my work on their Instagram stories or posts,” Aldrich said.
Signs always look better in neon
For Eastlake senior Sebastian Forenza, 17, utilizing direct messaging within Instagram and Snapchat has progressed his business Sebkabob Co., which builds custom neon-lighted signs.
Taking orders since Oct. 31, Forenza started his business as a healthy escape for himself.
“I started the business in hopes of finding a good way to use my time in a way that helps me grow as a person and to find what interests me in life,” he said.
Forenza first got a request from Bigfoot Burgers to make a neon sign for their food truck and decided to teach himself how to make neon signs in his garage. He soon was inundated with more requests and began posting images of his works on Instagram.
Instagram is often an easy entry point for business owners, because it provides an easy web presence and communications channel. For Forenza, he found that using social media to communicate with customers was not as professional, so he launched his own website to be more established.
“I hope to learn all that I can and get the tools I need to make Sebkabob Co. into a supportive business that can help me sustain myself and bring light into everyone’s lives,” he said.
Baked goods for homeless shelters
Mehek Mathur, 13, is an eighth grade student at Inglewood Middle School who has found Facebook as a great platform to promote her baking business, Mehek’s Bakery.
Mathur wanted to raise money to attend her school trip to Washington D.C., so she started selling baked goods like tiramisu and mango pudding last year. She had her parents post advertisements on Facebook and kept track of orders from there.
“We had family friends order first, and as my parents kept reposting on Facebook, more people chimed in. Orders have definitely increased after posting on Facebook,” she said.
At the beginning of the year, Mathur reached her original goal of $1,000 that was meant for the trip to D.C., which is still set for this summer.
Customers can now order baked goods from her website. For those who want to support her, but do not live close enough for delivery, donations are also accepted on the site. Mathur then uses the donations to bake extra mango pudding for The Sophia Way women’s shelters in Bellevue and Kirkland.
Mathur plans to continue using Facebook and the website for now, mainly because her customers are mostly older.
“I was thinking of using Instagram, but most of the people following me are kids and wouldn’t have much interest in buying. I think parents on Facebook are more interested,” she said.