COVID-19 has affected many small businesses, including those run by SIUE students. While some student business owners benefit from the flexibility of online learning, others miss the structure of in-person classes. 

Abby Gettemeier, a senior integrative studies major from Pacific, Missouri, runs an earring business called Lobes by Abby, for which she makes earrings out of polymer clay and sells them on Depop. She started her business in July, but the start of the semester changed how she operates.  

“I feel like so much of my life is chaos right now because I have no structure, and that has just made the earrings process so much harder because … during the summer I was able to dedicate seven days a week, or seven nights a week, to making earrings, whereas now because of classes I have only been able to work on earrings maybe twice a week,” Gettemeier said. “I don’t know if that would change if we had in-person classes, but I feel like I would be able to have more structure to my life and to my day.”

Emily Whelan, an MBA master’s candidate from Waterloo, Illinois, runs Emily’s Concrete Engraving, LLC. Whelan said she cuts and colors concrete to make it look pretty. As a mother of two, Whelan said the online program has given her more flexibility to work on both school and her business. 

“I’m up at 2:45 in the morning most days, because I spend the first three hours of my day doing all my schoolwork while the kids are sleeping, and then for the rest of the day I’m either working or taking care of the kids or homeschooling or doing their homework or taking care of the house,” Whelan said. “There’s not ever a good time to do schoolwork, so I just do it first thing in the morning before my day gets crazy. The flexibility is very necessary for my lifestyle.”

Daniel Weeden, a freshman computer science major from St. Louis, runs an embroidery business called Supreme Hustle. Weeden said since he has two classes on campus, he is still able to network in-person. 

“I’ve been doing it since remote learning started and it’s been blowing up. I guess once I got back on campus, I was able to network with more students and see more people, so that increased business,” Weeden said. 

Weeden said he was able to embroider masks to drive business. 

“When it first started, I was a little skeptical. You know, some people, they wouldn’t want to spend their money on embroidery because it wasn’t a necessity when COVID first struck. But I worked around it and I actually started making masks and that’s what kicked it off,” Weeden said. “I started doing face masks and embroidery on [them] and then I went from there.”

Gettemeier said she started the business as a way to make money after losing her job due to the pandemic. 

“I had no form of income and was practically just looking for any form of income that I could possibly have. I didn’t even have my ears pierced, and I was making earrings just for friends and stuff, and then was like, ‘wait a minute, I could probably make money doing this,’ and so that’s what I did and that’s how I started,” Gettemeier said. “I wouldn’t be able to tell if [COVID] is hurting my business or helping my business because I’m doing it all online.” 

Whelan said doing remote learning with her children posed the greatest challenge to her business. 

“I couldn’t find a daycare or childcare to fill in and do homeschooling lessons for my kids, so for most of the month of September I wasn’t even able to work. So it kind of set me on the sideline there for a while, and now they’re back in school, but it’s only 8 [a.m.] to noon so they’re only half days,” Whelan said. “So I still have a very small support system, so that’s definitely my biggest challenge.” 

Visit @lobesbyabby or @supremehustleco on Instagram to check out their products. Email or call 618-612-6698 to learn more about Emily’s Concrete Engraving.

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