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Students and young adults are starting online businesses due to COVID-19

The online businesses have allowed founders to operate safely from home while making extra income


"The pandemic has provided time for Sun Devils to establish a business online." Illustration published on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021.

As they spend fewer hours commuting to classes and spend more time at home, ASU students have taken the opportunity to start their own businesses online.

Between the newfound time spent in isolation and loss of income for themselves or their family members, many students have needed new ways to make money from home. Some have found starting their own businesses as good way to keep busy and supplement income.

Skylar Fomond, a junior studying psychology, has her own 100% vegan lip gloss business, “Sky Xpress,” which she started in August 2020. 

Fomond said she always wanted to get into making lip makeup products and was inspired by TikTok videos to start her brand. Over the summer, she worked as a Postmates delivery driver to fund and sustain her new business. 

“I started off really well because of all the support coming from my friends and family and all that, but lately it has been a little slow because it's been a bit hard to create content and products, especially since I don’t get much money in return,” Fomond said. 

Jemimah Dela Cruz is a former ASU student who dropped out after becoming overwhelmed by the pandemic. She works at a Michaels Craft Store during the day and has her own small business where she makes commissioned, customized glass paintings.

Cruz created the business, called Mahalin Art, because she was isolated at home and looking for another way to safely make money.

“I tried a lot of new things because of the pandemic," Cruz said. "I finally found something that I really enjoyed, which was the glass paintings. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I thought, 'Why not?'”

READ MORE: Skating to success: One student's journey from unemployed to business owner

The shop utilizes digital platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to bring in commissions via direct messages. Cruz plans on opening an Etsy profile and a website as the year progresses. 

"I have gotten used to balancing everything because I live with a high-risk family, and there is no way I can go out like I used to," she said. "So I figured if Mahalin sells well, that is a source of income for me without putting my family at risk.” 

Cruz said she plans to keep her commissions completely online in 2021, but might find shops to co-sell her products. Fomond's Sky Xpress also operates completely online, primarily via Instagram and Shopify, where customers can place orders to be shipped to them.

According to R. Scott Livengood, a clinical assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the W.P. Carey School of Business, the pandemic has had both positive and negative effects on entrepreneurship.

“Because we don’t have as many distractions, people have stripped away all of those extra things we do to fill the time and have gotten to the core of what really excites us,” Livengood said.

Livengood said if the market were steady and perfect all the time, there would be no problems for budding entrepreneurs to solve. However, it's extremely tricky for new businesses to navigate the current climate, as they have no history to base their decisions on, he said.

While the concept of online retail has existed for quite a while, Livengood said, the pandemic has sped up the process of businesses prioritizing online shopping.

“Our lives have changed and trends and needs have changed as well," Livengood said. "Other services and the things that we’ve done are going to be different. So it’s definitely not going back to ‘normal’ as we remember it, but definitely a new normal."

Arizona recently began Phase 1A of its COVID-19 vaccination program, prompting smaller businesses formed in the pandemic to consider their options going forward. Fomond said as safety concerns subside, she hopes to market her products in person.

"I do think that with the vaccine, I'll be able to be more into it, go outside and advertise, have my own booth at events, maybe give people tester products and stuff like that," Fomond said. "After I get settled down in my new place in a few days, I will continue to make new lip glosses with different colors and textures and everything."

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