Baylor students’ small businesses undergo changes due to COVID-19

Many Baylor student-run businesses have seen online sales soar while the cancelation of face-to-face events hurts business. Photo courtesy of Rylie York

By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer

For many students, the transition from in-person to online classes, and the uprooting of their campus-lives has involved a bit of adjustment. However, for students who own small businesses, things have gotten little more complicated.

Round Rock sophomore Rylie York owns “Rye Design Co!”, a sticker company. The name originated from her initials in monogram form. York began her business out of her Baylor dorm room in Feb. 2019.

“I started out by just doing permanent vinyl stickers, but just recently I started creating printed stickers by drawing my own designs and getting them printed as die-cut products,” York said. “I am passionate about Rye Designs Co because it has provided me with a place to express my creativity while getting to make cute and fun things for people to decorate their everyday life items with.”

York has seen sales on her Etsy shop “skyrocket through the roof,” and believes it is because her customers have more time on their hands due to the global pandemic.

“I’ve had more time to be creating and publishing new products, but it’s also because my business is online and let’s face it … everyone is almost constantly online right now,” York said. “This March was a record selling month for me, right behind December, which is a huge deal because the holidays are always crazy.”

Not all students with small businesses have seen an upturn in sales. Lexington, KY, freshman Haidyn Chudy said that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on her business and the way she runs it.

Chudy has owned her jewelry company, “Southern Belle Glitz,” since 2018 when she purchased it from the previous owner, but has been working for the company since 2016. It began strictly as a pageant jewelry company, but now offers boutique and more everyday jewelry.

“My business operates in two different ways, online and face-to-face. Obviously I can not do face-to-face events which is not helping business due to corona but what has impacted me the most is not being able to get back to Waco and into my dorm,” Chudy said. “All of my inventory is still in Waco as well as my shipping and fulfillment needs so therefore I cannot ship out products. I have not been able to be promoting my services either.”

Since her inventory is in Waco and not at Chudy’s home in Lexington, she is only offering her “sorority collection” as currently available for pre-order, but shipping times may take longer than before COVID-19’s impact.

Both student entrepreneurs said they are sure their businesses will survive, but each voiced concerns regarding the state of their business following the pandemic.

“I think that my business will survive but I am not sure what peoples’ discretionary spending will look like,” Chudy said. “It is an election year right now and typically spending is decreased on election years. I am unsure of what peoples spending will be like once this is all over but I am hoping that it will bounce back to normal.”

York said she appreciates making products that could potentially bring people joy during times of doubt such as these.

“I believe my small business will survive because I’m still pouring the same amount of energy, if not more, into keeping it going right now,” she said.

Not only are both York and Chudy immersing themselves into their businesses, but said they are balancing and adapting to the new means of online school as well.

“Now adjusting to a full course load online, back at home, without any of my business with me is a weird adjustment to make but I am hoping to just prepare for the future and create a new plan for when we can continue with events again and operate like normal,” Chudy said.

York said she is a “task-oriented” personality and that she thinks she can modify her habits to fit the new online-school schedule placed before her, as well as keep her business more than afloat.

“My overall goal for my small business during this time is to continue being profitable while providing my products for the people who look forward to them,” York said. “I owe it to my customers and supporters for getting me to this point in my business journey, and I believe I will continue to grow because of those who are walking alongside me in both good and bad times,” York said.

Chudy said that for her, the support of her customers is crucial in order to bring her, Southern Belle Glitz and other small businesses that rely on customer loyalty through the pandemic unscathed.

“Share their social media posts, buy what you can from them, and spread the word about their companies,” Chudy said. Send the business owners you know some encouragement because a lot of them are trying to adjust, just like everyone else is. We’re going to get through this together we just need to support one another.”