Paying tuition is a major part of higher education, but so is affording daily essentials like meals, books, and warm clothes to handle brutal winters. These are extra expenses students have to account for which explains why some are creating small businesses to help increase their expenses while they remain in school.
HBCU students make up 51.3% of students under the poverty line, reported by UNCF, and don’t always have the benefit of financial assistance from their parents/guardians. While some entrepreneurs don’t fit this statistic, they are still looking for extra cash.
“My parents made it very clear they weren’t paying my bills and theirs,” said Alana LeMelle, Southern University and A&M College alumna, explaining the reason for starting her makeup business Kaptivating Faces Makeup Artistry in 2014.
LeMelle began doing makeup as a hobby to help her friends for special occasions or a simple night. As she began to get recognized on campus for her work, she started to charge her customers. She turned her hobby into a side hustle that weathered her college journey.
Throughout her years on campus, LeMelle built a clientele by becoming a key makeup artist for the university’s homecoming fashion shows. She was nominated for the SU Girls Rock Award that honors women-led businesses on campus. As her business grew, she gained the funds to reinvest to expand.
In the U.S. 44 % of employed adults work an extra job, according to a survey from Insuranks, a small-business insurance marketplace. These extra jobs are geared toward helping people close the financial gap to cover bills, accumulate more disposable income or build savings. HBCU students seek the same outcome with their side ventures except without the help of a full-time job.
Hampton University alumna Samiyah Gaddy began her business, Miy Lifestyle, as a hair company in 2018 that progressed into a clothing and accessories boutique today to help pay rent, build savings and have more disposable income.
Gaddy explained the initial reluctance from her mom although side hustles are common among Americans. “Nobody understood what it takes to run a business,” said Gaddy, who used her savings to self-invest into her company.
“My parents and their generation were taught to get a company job. They didn’t know what benefits come with being a business owner.”
For LeMelle and Gaddy, their HBCU collegiate experiences have played a significant role in the growth of their business. LeMelle has now expanded her business into a cosmetic line, and Gaddy has launched numerous collections that sell out in minutes.
“At Southern, you’re able to thrive… People speak your names in rooms and you won’t even see it coming,” said LeMelle.
Similarly, Taylor Gardner gained exposure on the campus of Morgan State University where she creates tagged.by.tay, a collection of her hand-painted art pieces. During homecoming, MSU provided the opportunity for students to set up tables to promote their small business where Gardner was able to increase her social media followers and sell her original work. At their homecoming concert, she presented the rapper GloRilla with a custom painting.
“This business started in an unfortunate situation, but I was able to turn it into something good. So, every time I make something I want it to be perfect,” said Gardner.
Her business began during the COVID-19 outbreak where everyone was in quarantine. Gardner always loved to draw but experimented with the new medium to make a return on her designs.
These HBCU business owners were able to turn their hobbies and interests into a business that helped sustain their expenses with the help of their campus and peers.
“It all comes together when you see other people in your brand and see other people supporting you so hard. It makes it worth it,” said Gaddy.