Student businesses create new opportunities and communities for Augustana students

Rae Barry

Despite the everyday challenges of being a full-time student, some Augustana students are finding success in their own small businesses. While already balancing academics, Greek life, clubs and activities, these students have ventured into the unique challenges of self-employment.

Juggling priorities in college can prove to be a struggle. For senior Darian Patwal, this proved to be most challenging in the earliest stages of her illustration business, “Doodles by Darian.”

“It was really hard because I was really, really into it when I first started, and I would spend all my free time just doodling and I was like, ‘Okay, I actually have homework’,” Patwal said. “It was kind of hard, but I figured out the rhythm.”

Although having to manage their own time can be a challenge, this has also allowed students to create their schedules with more flexibility than other jobs. This freedom has caused some students to opt towards self-employment. 

First-Year Philip Exl explains the importance of creating his own schedule as a student and barber.

“I prioritize school because that’s why I’m here,” Exl said. “Every time I have free time and somebody wants me to cut their hair, I’ll be flexible about it. I can choose whenever I want to work.” 

Debate from students about raising Augustana student wages has also pushed some into self-employment. Senior Natalie Freitag explained that pursuing her business “Nails by Natalie” has allowed her to dictate her own wages while still working on campus. 

“I always considered getting a job on campus, but you have got people who are campaigning for raising the student wages, that’s always been a struggle,” Freitag said. “I wanted to make a decent wage, and also, I wanted to work more flexible hours. I’ve been able to do that with this.”

For sophomore Emma Watts, managing her own jewelry business “Drøm Jewelry” has allowed her to combine her love for crafting with her education and area of study. Watts explains how her business ideas root back to Norway and how the pieces she makes tie back to this culture, such as her “Norse rune” inspired jewelry.

“I’m a Scandinavian studies minor, and the business [name] comes from Norwegian, ‘Drøm.’ I’m Swedish, Norwegian and German,” Watts said. “So I’ve always had an interest in runes. I actually took [the jewelry] to a craft show.”

Student businesses on campus have also allowed students to form new connections and communities. Being able to provide services or seek advice from peers on campus has formed further relationships between students. For Exl, being able to cut hair was a skill he developed with the help of a fellow fraternity member.

“Another person in my frat is cutting hair and he was cutting my hair. He showed me some tricks and now he’s kind of my mentor,” Exl said. 

While self-employment proves to be a tool for creating community or combating the struggles that other jobs might create, Freitag explains that the reason she chose to pursue nails as a business is simply because of the joy it brings her.

“I really like doing people’s nails, and it’s very rewarding. I think if it wasn’t, it’s not something I would continue doing,” Freitag said. “But it’s flexible, and it’s something that I like. I love seeing how happy it makes people, it’s just a really nice way to take care of yourself.”

An anonymously student-run instagram account, “Augie Appreciation,” has helped bring awareness to student businesses. After being created in 2021, the account has evolved with over 1,000 followers consisting mainly of members of the Augustana community. As of April 8, the Augie Appreciation account has begun a series of student small business Saturdays, an opportunity to promote these businesses.

While the series is only a month old, it is already garnering attention. Freitag explained the impact being posted on the series has had for her.

“I was so surprised. I met with the administrator, and I did the nails of their friend,” Freitag said. “They asked if they could post about it. I gained probably 15 followers from that and now almost every time I post someone reaches out to me to ask if I can do their nails.” 

While this account has generated attraction to student businesses, some hope that the campus will bring back more opportunities for student business owners to showcase their skills.

“I wish there were more opportunities for people. I wish there was somewhere for people to promote their [businesses], like a monthly craft show,” Watts said.

As students recall past craft shows held by HerCampus, Patwal advises that student business owners need to do more to create communities and support one another.

“If they don’t have one then get together with some friends to see if you want to make one yourself, just being able to get the word out there,” Patwal said.

While creating new connections among other small businesses and peers, students still hope to see more people join them in pursuing their hobbies into businesses. Their biggest advice is to simply start by trying.

“If you want to do something, the best advice I can give you is just do it. If you want to write a book, find 15 minutes in your day to sit down and dedicate yourself to writing that book,” Watts said. “In the end, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”