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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Aggie entrepreneurs: UC Davis students found small businesses

From earrings to tote bags to chocolate-covered strawberries — how three driven students are turning their passions into profits

In today’s gig economy, people — especially students — are often on the hunt for a way to make some extra money and have fun doing it. Here’s how three students at UC Davis have turned their hobbies into successful side-hustles inspired by their families, majors and love for crafting.

Melany Jaramillo, a third-year psychology and Native American studies double major, created Mel’s Treats, which specializes in gourmet chocolate-covered strawberries. Her products range from her exclusive jack-o-lantern Halloween berries to classics, like her signature milk chocolate with white chocolate drizzle strawberries. 

Jaramillo started her business in October, just in time to sell Halloween-themed berries, though she had been thinking of starting the business for some time. She explained that although she works at the CoHo, she was looking for a more creative way to make money and thus, Mel’s Treats was born.

“I was looking for a side-hustle to make a second source of income while doing something I love,” Jaramillo said. “I think [my inspiration] also comes from my mom, because she’s always had side-hustles — she sells tacos and homemade Mexican food and pastries. It really stems from her.”

Jaramillo sells her strawberries through her Instagram @mels.treats, where she posts pictures of her mouth-watering creations and takes orders via direct message. 

Gracie Globerman, a second-year sustainable environmental design major, also created her company so that she could do something she loves — crafting — while making a profit. She and co-founder Abby Golde were inspired to start TOTEally Upcycled, which specializes in upcycled and personalized tote bags and scrunchies. Globerman said she and Golde, who are both passionate about environmental issues, were inspired by the Aggie Trading Post’s mission aimed at educating students on fast fashion and advocating for more sustainable options.

“We were inspired by the Aggie Trading Post to think, ‘What can we do to actually make upcycled clothes when nobody could wear them anymore?’” Globerman said.

They wanted to take the idea of the trading post to the next level to ensure that clothes that were too old or worn to be swapped or sold could still be repurposed. They decided to make their tote bags out of shirts that were past their prime, which they get from Goodwill or from buyers who want to personalize their tote. They also make scrunchies out of the extra shirt material, going the extra mile to make sure that the fabric does not go to waste. Both their bags and their scrunchies can be purchased through their Instagram @toteallyupcycled.

Globerman said the biggest challenge they have run into in creating their company is striking a balance between running a profitable business and focusing on sustainability.

“One of the biggest challenges has been figuring out how much things cost us to make while trying to make the product affordable, because we want to be equitable and sustainable — not just in regards to the product, but as a business,” Globerman said.

Ultimately, Globerman’s and Golde’s main goal is “having fun while making a difference” and putting their “crafting to good use.”

Like Globerman, Julie Torres’ idea for “Earrings for Your Ears” came from her desire to craft and have fun. Torres, a fourth-year managerial economics major, said she began her company almost accidentally, making earrings for herself as a hobby.

 “I like to draw and make cute [earrings],” Torres said. “I love drawing little things on my [promotional instagram] posts. [Making earrings is] really just a way for me to be creative. Mostly it’s just me being like, ‘How can I make this as fun as possible?’”

Torres began her company in the summer of 2019 by making funky earrings for herself to wear as an alternative to purchasing new ones. Soon, however, her friends started noticing them and asked her if they could buy the unique pieces, so she began selling them for $5 a pair.

She uses lots of beads in her earrings, but also loves finding materials that aren’t originally intended to be made into jewelry — her favorites being the plastic mini rubber duckies that she found lying around her apartment. Since starting to make earrings this past summer, Torres has been selling via instagram @earrings_foryourears, where she posts new pairs as she makes them.

One of Torres’s biggest challenges in making her earrings is finding ways to differentiate herself from other jewelry companies, but she finds this task creative and fun.

“Finding things to make earrings out of is more of a fun challenge,” she said. “I like scouting out different antique stores and craft shows [and] finding random knick-knacks around my room and thinking ‘Oh my god, that would be amazing to wear.’” 

Ultimately, all three of these students emphasize the fun that they have in their business pursuits. Their side-hustles have been successful because they are passionate about their crafts and love the work that they do. Torres said she always urges other students to pursue new businesses, but she also emphasized how important it is to love the work that you do to be successful.

“I say go for it,” she said. :But make sure you are really passionate about it and that you enjoy doing it — because I just love making earrings!”  

Written by: Katie DeBenedetti — features@theaggie.org


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