Between sicknesses, finances and everything in between, some people couldn't seem to catch a break this past year. However, credit is due to the individuals who saw this pandemic as an opportunity to start their own company and have found success in doing so. These determined business owners used creativity and strategic planning to overcome challenges that the coronavirus threw at them.
Like others, college graduates Delaney Mountford and Katelyn Gerstenschlager had trouble finding work after graduation. They graduated in an uncertain time, but they didn’t sit around for too long. Instead, they took a risk and combined some college memories with creativity to start a sweatshirt company: Hangover Hoodies.
The company is known for their graphic sweatshirts with relatable sayings on the back, like “this is my hangover hoodie,” “just woke up!” and “stupid happy.” These sayings combined with vivid colors make their products stand out from other trendy graphic hoodies. The two founders were "inspired by Saturdays and our favorite people," according to their Instagram account. They have been successful in appealing to college students with the motto “take risks, know your worth, and have fun.” With over 20 thousand Instagram followers, Mountford and Gerstenschlager prove that even when it seems like there are no opportunities coming your way, it’s possible to find success.
Other college students were successful in starting businesses during the pandemic, too. BD Greek Life was created in May of 2020 by UofSC sophomores and twins Brigid and DeeDee Pfeifer. In the early months of the pandemic, the twins helped their dad with his screen-printing company because only a limited number of workers were allowed in the warehouse due to pandemic restrictions. Working in the warehouse inspired them to create “affordable and trendy apparel that would also help [their] Dad and his company during this difficult time,” Brigid said. Eight months later, BD Greek Life sells sorority clothing to colleges all around the country, spanning from University of Maryland, Ole Miss and of course, UofSC.
Although this pandemic made BD Greek Life sales slow at first, it gave the Pfeiffer’s time to brainstorm ideas and improve their websites and social media. Brigid explained that although “the situation we are in is not ideal for small businesses, there are still plenty of ways to grow your business.” The twins hope to grow their company as much as possible and see how far they can take it.
A few states over at Auburn University, another small business was created during the pandemic. Erin Collins, a sophomore at Auburn, started an online boutique in the summer of 2020. Everyday Ernie carries bright clothing and accessories that are handpicked and sold to customers at an affordable price. Keeley Kortze, who helps Collins with Everyday Ernie, explained that the company targets students at close by SEC schools. She tailors her inventory towards certain schools, like bulldog earrings for the University of Georgia.
Despite setbacks from the pandemic, Collins keeps costumers engaged by doing frequent deals and promotions, as well as trunk shows for locals. Social media played a key role in creating Everyday Ernie’s fan base, which is an important aspect to creating your own company. "The pandemic has even heightened business because it's an online boutique and never had a store front," Kortze explained. Less events are being held in person, making a store’s online presence even more important than it was pre-pandemic.
Being a small business owner takes guts and motivation, especially during a pandemic. With in person events being cancelled, production and shipping taking longer and more customers out of work, it seems like an impossible time to start a company. Even with all odds against them, some small business owners have found success.