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Editorial | Our “society” did not lie to the Benedictine College graduates — Harrison Butker did
Editorial | Our “society” did not lie to the Benedictine College graduates — Harrison Butker did
By The Pitt News Editorial Board 12:51 am

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Editorial | Our “society” did not lie to the Benedictine College graduates — Harrison Butker did
Editorial | Our “society” did not lie to the Benedictine College graduates — Harrison Butker did
By The Pitt News Editorial Board 12:51 am

From passion to profit: Student small business owners thrive in college atmosphere

A+pile+of+cash.
TPN File Photo
A pile of cash.

When Aliyah Sulaman first arrived at Pitt, she couldn’t find a nail technician in Pittsburgh who offered “crazy” designs while providing a comfortable space and experience. So, Sulaman began practicing on herself and her friends. 

“After about five months of learning on my own and getting feedback, I decided I wanted to serve college students at Pitt and beyond, and 501 Nails was born,” Sulaman, a senior health informatics major, said.

Some students operate small businesses as a way to make money during college. Having to balance their time between academics and running a business, the student entrepreneurs often plan their business hours around classes, exams and homework. Businesses like 501 Nails, SOLIS Studio and Rickweaves are run by Pitt students. 

Sulaman runs 501 Nails on her own and dedicates approximately 10 to 20 hours a week to the business. She specializes in concept-based nail art in the form of Gel-X, structured gel manicures and Russian manicures. While 70% of her clientele consists of college students, the other 30% are local members of the community. 

Balancing 501 Nails and educational pursuits can be challenging. However, Sulaman said her ambitions to grow the business after graduation makes the current demands of college and entrepreneurship worth it.

“I am really passionate about my business and have come to the realization recently that I want to expand it after college,” Sulaman said. “My major is completely different from my business, so juggling two completely different topics can be tiring.”

Gloria Hao and Hannah Ye co-own the small business SOLIS Studio, which specializes in portraits, headshots, concept photos and modeling portfolio shoots. SOLIS has also covered various campus events and activities, such as Chinese American Student Association’s Lunar New Year Celebration in Feb. 2023 and FRESA’s biannual showcases in Nov. 2022 and April 2023. 

Ye, a junior supply chain management major, said the two decided to start their photography studio after noticing a demand for photography services on campus.

“Before officially starting the business, Gloria and I had been taking club event photos and doing concept photos with our friends,” Ye said. “Later on, we noticed that there was a large demand for headshots on campus and also that there weren’t many student photography businesses doing concept photography.”

Hao, a junior biological sciences major, said her passion for photography over the years inspired her to start SOLIS Studio with Ye. 

“I personally started taking photos at the age of 15, initially using my phone to capture anything that intrigued me or left a lasting impression,” Hao said. “Over time, I advanced to digital and DSLR cameras for more professional photography.”

SOLIS Studio is in its initial stages of operation, according to Ye and Hao. As of now, SOLIS Studio accepts clients on a contractual basis. Depending on the type of photos, shooting may take anywhere from 1-3 hours, with photo editing taking an additional 1-3 hours. 

While SOLIS Studio mainly services college students, they intend to extend their services to businesses within the greater Pittsburgh community. 

“While our primary focus is college students in Pittsburgh, we aim to attract a diverse clientele,” Ye and Hao said. “This includes students, faculty and staff, as well as local residents who seek professional photography services. We also plan on reaching out to any business that needs event coverage.”

Hao said running a photography business requires time management skills, but her and Ye’s shared passion for photography serves as a therapeutic escape from the stressors of school.

“Since photography is a shared passion for both of us, capturing moments for our clients serves as a form of relaxation and creative expression beyond academics,” Hao said.

Hao and Ye’s individual strengths allow them to work together to advance their business.

“Hannah’s business background provides valuable insights into the management aspects, while my expertise lies in the various forms and styles of photography,” Hao said. “Our complementary skills enable us to successfully operate and grow our photography studio.”

While some business owners offer in-person services to clients, students like Erica Love sell handmade products through online shopping platforms such as Etsy. 

Love, a senior French and international studies major, owns an online handmade jewelry business called rickweaves, which can be found on Etsy, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest under the same name.

rickweaves began as a way for Love to pass time during the COVID-19 lockdowns and has since grown into a successful business.

“I started my shop with handwoven friendship bracelets just because I enjoyed making them, but I’ve transitioned into making soldered and beaded jewelry as well as pioneering jewelry mystery boxes focusing on different popular aesthetics like cottagecore and whimsigoth,” Love said.

Love is the sole proprietor of rickweaves. Her responsibilities consist of sourcing materials, making pieces, photographing and listing products, managing social media platforms and providing customer service. 

While college students make up a large portion of her clientele, Love said many different types of customers purchase her products. 

“I find that my jewelry appeals to a lot of audiences because I am working in multiple niches,” Love said. “All the items in my shop are my own creations, but I have also made items catered to certain fan bases that I am in and love, which also brings in their own groups of customers.”

Love runs rickweaves out of her college apartment. She said the time she dedicates to rickweaves varies and is especially dependent on the season.

“During the summer, things aren’t really consistent and I cannot count on my shop to be a stable source of income,” Love said. “Things change a lot come October and November when I’m anticipating the Christmas season, and I may spend an entire afternoon multiple days out of the week to work. It feels like I’m constantly restocking and running to the post office before the holidays, but I can’t complain.”

Love said her work is fulfilling, but she often finds it challenging to manage school and expand her business to its full potential. She said hiring an additional person to manage bookkeeping or photography would help her grow creatively. 

“I will always send out my orders on time and be communicative with customers, but what gets lost is my ability to promote myself, make social media content, and make new products, which is hard because these are the things you have to constantly be doing to remain relevant and competitive and reach new customers,” Love said.

About the Contributor
Anna Kuntz, Staff Writer