Illustrated by Evelyn Hsy
Spread throughout campus, a few talented Bears own small businesses of their own. Taking control of the marketing, advertisement, and creation of their products, these students work hard to launch their businesses off the ground. Here are a few you should check out.
Senior Ece Eris sells custom pet portraits, original wildlife artwork, and YouTube art lessons. With an influential social media presence, Eris has 180,000 followers on TikTok and 10,800 on Instagram. “I get most of my business clients from TikTok,” Eris said. Her commissions have a waiting time of a year now.
“My style isn’t quite hyper-realistic,” she said. “Sometimes I recognize places where I can make it more realistic, but choose to be expressive with the style.” Detailing the fur on each part of the animal is time-consuming: “For one portrait, it takes me around 10-20 hours depending on the size,” she explained, with a typical nine-inch by twelve-inch drawing “averaging around 12 hours.” She said, “I generally assign myself four to five portraits per month, and do a lot of catch-up on weekends.”
Eris pays special attention to the eyes of the pets, focusing on making them “really expressive and shiny.” Sometimes, “When I get lost in the details,” she said, “I’ll sit down for eight hours a day and finish a portrait.”
Learning from other artists, she developed her skills in just a few years. “I think I picked up my first pastel pencil in 2017,” she said. “It takes drawing almost every single day” to develop such talent. In 2019, Eris made her first commission sale at a local art gallery, where a woman inquired about getting a portrait of her cat.
Since her business has grown throughout high school, Eris has been able to register her business under an ID number, pay taxes, and participate in outdoor markets. She has done four fairs so far, including one for California Artists in Burlingame. In October, she will participate in a Pacific Fine Art show.
Generally, Eris is the youngest artist at these fairs and customers are in disbelief as they walk past. “When I’m by myself at the booth, people won’t believe that I’m the artist,” she said.
For any artists aspiring to start a business of their own, Eris recommends starting accounts on any and all social media platforms. “Everything is online nowadays. Don’t be afraid to post,” she said, adding that the most important thing is getting the word out. “Find someone who’s doing what you want to do,” she suggests. “Learn from the formats of their posts, the sounds they’re using in videos, and the ways they’re posting.”
If you want to support Eris, follow @ece_pastel on Instagram and Tiktok.
Sophomore Lainey Egnal owns a small business selling custom-made cards and other creations. While cards are her most popular order, she also makes items such as sweatshirts, aprons, T-shirts, and more. “If someone asks me for something, I can figure it out,” she said.
One of her favorite cards was a “‘Thinking of You’ card for the Hillview service team.” She also enjoyed creating graduation caps for two seniors on her dance team, though they were a different process than cards. “It was a really fun experience to make something that I knew people would look back on and think about,” she said.
Egnal uses a Cricut machine to create intricate designs for her products. Having an online platform where she can create designs and a machine to “cut out the detailed shapes” enables Egnal to execute her creative ideas, making 3-D flowers and designs.
Even with the patterns, gluing on individual pieces takes a while. “Depending on the intricacy, I can usually get a card done in an hour,” she said. “If I’m water coloring or handwriting calligraphy then it’ll take longer. 50-card orders, which are usually my maximum, can take up to a week.”
However, she has faced some obstacles with her business. “My biggest challenge is time,” she said, recounting an experience where she was up until one in the morning trying to get a bulk order of cards done the week before finals. She also noted, “I don’t have that many followers, so it’s tricky to get out there.”
For other students looking to start a small business, Egnal said, “definitely just try to get yourself out there, even if you start with friends or teachers.” Eventually connections will grow and “people will come to you with a friend or neighbor who wants to order something.”
If you want to support Egnal, follow @laineys_cards on Instagram.
Senior Kiana Gholamy runs an online baking business, creating custom goods for any occasion. Gholamy started her Instagram account in eighth grade and began to seriously grow the business during her years as an underclassman.
“My favorite thing to make are cakes,” Gholamy said. “There’s so many more opportunities with them.” She has also filled orders of goods such as cupcakes and cookies, and is currently working to start a macaron line.
Gholamy spends most of her time embellishing the cakes. “Decorating is definitely my favorite part,” she said. “One of my more complex orders was a three-tier rainbow watercolor cake I made for my sister’s birthday.”
The process of buying ingredients, baking the product, and then adding decorations is not a quick one, and Gholamy said, “I’d say timing is definitely my biggest struggle.” Baking an order is a full day process, one that she keeps track of in a spreadsheet of timing and costs.
“I accept a couple of orders a month,” she said, doing the majority of the baking on weekends. However, as holidays approach, Gholamy typically receives more.
She said, “my most popular item is a chocolate raspberry cake. I keep posting photos of it as I get more orders and then more people order it. It’s really simple but fun to make too.”
Last year, Gholamy entered a national contest called “The Greatest Baker.” She said, “I got to submit photos of all the stuff I made, and it was open to the public to vote.” Competing against about a thousand bakers of all ages, she made it to the quarter-finals.
One tip that Gholamy has for aspiring bakers or small business owners is to “start small and keep going.” One of the mistakes she finds in many business start-ups is “trying to plan out a big release. Spending all this time preparing to start something where you could just start. You have to keep doing something while planning releases,” Gholamy said, “or else everything will come to a stop.”
If you want to support Gholamy in her business, or order baked goods for your next event, follow her on Instagram @_kianaskitchen or visit her website.