‘Just do it!’: Southern student entrepreneurs share lessons learned

Business startup (Darcie Denton)

From thrifted clothes to dorm essentials, Southern students  have started their own businesses on campus, in addition to trying to balance their course loads.  By selling painted t-shirts to promote original art or selling thrifted items to raise money as a nonprofit, students have found multiple ways to launch  business ventures.

Just this fall, freshman public relations and graphic design major Anna Cousins co-founded and started Phoenecia Finesse, a resale thrifted clothing store on Instagram. Profits  are donated to provide feminine products for refugees in Lebanon.

“My friend and I wanted to start a business that was a sustainable charity, something that keeps on giving,” Cousins said. “We thought an online thrift shop would be really cool! We want to grow it more and get to the point where we have multiple people making products so that we can support them. We just want to help people; that’s our drive.”

According to Cousins, the biggest obstacle when first starting the business was unrealized expectations. On their first drop, they only sold one or two items.

“It’s kind of discouraging to get back up and keep working on it,” Cousins said. “We talked about it, though, and now we know what not to do and can go from there. We’re still working on it, but failure has helped us find our rhythm. It’s only been two months!”

Another student, senior fine arts major Darcie Denton, sells original art pieces, prints, stickers, shirts and sweatshirts. She has a following of 36.5k on Instagram and uses the platform to promote her work.

“It started as me wanting to put my artwork out there,” Denton said. “But when I decided to fully go for it and become a fine art major, I realized I needed to make money from this. I started off with commissions for my family and random people on Instagram, and things really started selling when I posted a Van Gogh collection Youtube video.”

The two most difficult aspects that Denton had to learn was how to sell consistently online and how to handle the cycles of burnout. 

“It’s been a really slow process, but learning from other people doing the same thing online, watching YouTube videos, reading people’s Instagram posts and podcasts have been really great,” she said. “Learn from people who have done it before, and practice!”

If Kenneth Bautista, founder of Markdown Market, could give one piece of advice to other students trying to start their own business, he would tell them, “Just do it!”

“I think when you’re young and when you start a business, failing is okay,”  said Bautista, a sophomore business administration major who sells dorm essentials at a retail price. “What matters most is getting the experience and doing better next time. Don’t listen to the people that don’t believe in you.”

Darcie Dalton paints in her studio space at the Art Annex. Darcie sells original art pieces, prints, stickers, shirts and sweatshirts. Photo by Xander Ordinola. 
Kenneth Bautista holds inventory from his company, Mark Down Market. Photo by Xander Ordinola. 

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