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Small Businesses, Big Responsibilities

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

by Leah Dwyer

Being a student can sometimes feel like it’s hard enough on its own. But these Purchase students tackle being both a student and running a business.

April Gloom, a junior studio composition major, Norah O’Brien, a sophomore arts management major, and Sigrid Cassell, a junior new media major, all discuss their own experiences running a small business.

“If you have an idea for yourself, it’s not as far out of your reach as you think it is,” said Cassell.

Cassell makes custom, handmade clay jewelry. She sells her jewelry on her Instagram @theredfelon and on Depop.

A screenshot of some jewelry off of Cassell's Instagram (Image via

Cassell said she was inspired to begin working with polymer clay after taking ceramics in high school. The interest in her jewelry from her peers inspired her to start selling.

“I’ve always wanted to be my own boss,” she said. “To only have to answer to myself and work at my own pace.”

Managing a business while still taking classes is not easy. Cassell said, “The hardest thing about having a business is managing the work and focusing on your intentions for what you want at the same time.”

She talked about having to manage how many orders she takes and being able to prioritize the tasks presented to her.

“You sometimes have to make sacrifices if it’s overworking you,” she said. “Otherwise it will cause you to lose interest or start to get overwhelmed.”

“Balancing work and school are very challenging,” Cassell said. She said that in order to balance the two she makes sure to communicate with her customers. “I can’t always fully devote my time to the business as a college student,” she said. “I think that consumers are genuinely understanding and like to be aware of these kinds of things.”

Cassell also discussed how she stays motivated to keep going. “I stay motivated when I think about what I want for my future, and seeing others who are also running small businesses,” she said.

She talked about how being a part of the small business community also helps. “Since I’ve started, I’ve become one with the small business community, which is so empowering,” she said.

Cassell felt it was important to mention that people should do what they want to despite what others say. She said, “If you want to do something that someone might tell you is unrealistic, do it anyway.”

O’Brien makes custom, homemade candles. She began making candles for friends but when she saw how much people enjoyed them, began selling them.

The candles are made to order and contain herbs, dried flowers and crystals. O’Brien said, “I just hope that as the candle burns it releases all the properties of the crystals and herbs to create good vibes and cleanse energy.”

O’Brien is currently doing orders over the phone and through direct messages on her Instagram @norah_obrien.

O’Brien said her business doesn’t interfere with school much. She described candle making as more of a hobby. “It’s just enjoyable and it’s also something that someone else enjoys,” she said.

Gloom sells upcycled clothes, jewelry and hand-sewn hats, clothes, etc. for Gloomy Blooms. Her items can be found on her social media @gloomybloomsboutique and her shop and Depop thriftyapril.

Some clothing items that Gloom sells (Image via

Making art has always been a part of Gloom’s life, she said her business all started when she was 11 or 12 and started selling art at local markets. “I love the idea of being my own boss,” she said, “and enjoying my work by making art.”

Gloom decided to start selling her items when she noticed how much she had. She said, “I began making my own stuff and that just progressed into having so much stuff that I thought it’d be a good idea to sell some of it.”

For Gloom, being at school means running a business is a little trickier. “My shop is a bit on pause for the moment,” said Gloom. “I don’t have my sewing machine or much supplies at school, so I haven’t been making new items to sell.”

Gloom says running a business can be frustrating, especially when she's proud of an item and it doesn’t sell. But there are also rewards that make it all worthwhile.

“I just love it when somebody has an item of mine and it brings them joy!” she said. “It makes me super motivated to make more stuff.”



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