Klein College of Media and Communication students have many talents, and not just in the field of communication! We interviewed three communication studies (CMST) students that have recently launched businesses that engage with their creative sides.
· Junior Tiffani Thai is studying CMST and created a business on Depop selling clothes.
· Sophomore Marie Nogard is studying CMST and psychology and sells custom crochet hats.
· Sophomore Yaya Mandiwanzira is studying CMST on the entrepreneurship track with minors in psychology and cognitive neuroscience and created a virtual styling service.
What is the nature of the online business you've launched?
TT: I use Depop, where people sell their used clothes. That's how I started, but then I started making my own things to sell. Last year I sewed these fuzzy tote bags that were pretty cool and in trend for the year, so I got a lot of sales for that, and I guess that gave me kind of, like, a following. And then this year I started selling my tie dye t-shirts, specifically heart patterns, and those are pretty popular this year, too.
MN: Essentially the way I do things is mostly commission-based because I'm pretty busy most of the time and it's hard for me to do things ahead of time. I like to talk to whoever it's for and work together to get a nice vision for them. I think that's a lot more personal, and it feels more like there's a sense of community to it as opposed to just having a stock, especially because it's something I do really like doing. I didn't want it to become something that was, like, super deadline-based.
YM: The K Closet was the marriage of my love for people helping me grow and me helping people grow. The K Closet is essentially a virtual styling business where I connect with individuals who are looking for some assistance style-wise or fashion-wise.
When did you first learn your craft?
TT: Last year, my dad taught me how to sew in quarantine and I've always wanted to learn, like it was so cool watching him hem all my stuff. Then, I just randomly watched this tote bag tutorial on YouTube and I was like, 'I want to do that, too,' and then I found this really cool fabric at the fabric store I liked - and apparently a lot of people like it, too. I've been tie-dying since I was a little kid, so it was cool to turn it into a small business.
MN: I started January of this year, I guess, and I just got really fixated. I'm a very fidgety person and I really wanted something to do with my hands during my Zoom lectures and stuff because it's really hard for me to pay attention. So I spent a really long time learning how to [crochet]. It's very rewarding, I feel, to have a tangible product for whatever creative ideas you have. I've never really had something like that before, so it's been a great experience for me outside of the business aspect.
YM: My mother. My mother is a huge fashion woman. She dresses in a very specific way. She was just so confident in the world of fashion and how things work. She would buy me things that I didn't really wanna wear and then three months later they're trending, so she's very ahead in that sense. However, I was limited because it was her style. Growing up I had the assumption that there was only one right way to dress, and that was the way my mother approves.
What ended up happening was my father traveled a lot for work, and thankfully he would take us as a family. My travel experiences opened me up to different cultures. Seeing the way different people behave from all around the world opened my mind to realizing that there's no correct way to do anything. It's really specific to the person and the individual themselves. That was when I started making more of my own decisions in the way I dress; that was when I started exploring things. I don't dress in every single style; however, I appreciate every single style the way I do mine because I know it's important and I know that it still is meaningful in its own way, regardless of whether it's me.
What made you decide to start selling and sharing?
TT: I always wanted to be a fashion designer, and this kind of gave me an opportunity to do that on a smaller scale. I basically just used Instagram and told my friends to help me repost on their stories and stuff. People just saw my stuff on the Depop search bar. You tag a bunch of brands that are pretty popular and look like the product you're selling so people look for clothes that look like that brand.
MN: It's just that people were curious about it, especially a lot of my friends and family. They really wanted to support me in this. Right now there's definitely a big trend, there's a lot of crochet and knitwear online now so there's just a demand for it. I wasn't ever going into it like, 'I'm gonna sell.' But then, I was sharing and people were like, 'Oh, can I buy one?' It really sort of fell into my lap. It wasn't really ever the goal.
YM: I have a friend of mine who recently left the Jewish community, and they're a male, and he had a hard time trying to figure out who he was outside of that Jewish community. He reached out to me and asked me if I can help him. He said, 'I just want to explore,' and I said, 'okay,' and I created a whole presentation for him called the Heedy [his name] Look Book. He was so grateful and appreciative of it to a point where he said, 'I don't know why you didn't charge me,' and I was like, 'whoa, that's a good point.'
I was shy to bring it to the US when I moved here in January. I was still not yet out of my Zimbabwean shell, but around September I was ready. The reason why I came up with The K Closet is I want to be able to communicate and pass on the way fashion has helped me as a person. The K Closet connects mindset and the way you think with fashion to the way you dress. By combining your mindset and the way you see yourself, you're able to elevate your mindset and elevate your fashion with it so that you can become your best self.
What have you learned from this experience?
TT: I think it would be cool to work in some kind of fashion company, so I think this gave me some experience for that: price management, time management, keeping up with my sales. It was hard because it was only me. I would have to get my sales up and then make everything on my own. It's pretty stressful, but I got everything out on time.
MN: It's definitely a fun hobby to have. I've always been a creative person but I haven't ever really felt like, especially with visual art, that I'm talented enough or like it was ever worth it. But with crochet, when I have a final product, like I said before, it's very tangible. It's very much like I did this. I put my effort in and then at the end I have something to show for it. I have a cute little hat I can put on.
YM: That we're all really figuring it out in life. Our own unique ways and our paths are so different and so intricate and so complex and unique, that we really ought to learn from each other a little more because, as much as we are different, I think it's what makes us the same.
How has the Klein community supported your endeavors?
TT: Dr. Gratson joined our class last week because our professor was out sick and he just asked us all what we're up to and I thought it would be cool to share about my business which is how we're doing this interview right now. I really liked Intro to Art Direction. It really taught me how to make my photos look good, editing, using design and stuff. Advertising classes and Intro to Marketing this year have also been helpful.
MN: I have an Instagram account I made a couple weeks ago where I have some stuff. Most of the time I've been posting stuff on my personal Instagram and people have been contacting me there, but I'm sort of moving away from that and am in a transitional period now where I'm figuring out how I want to structure this for myself. I would not have made myself an Instagram account unless [Klein] had reached out to me to do this. It's hard in your head to realize, 'oh I'm actually doing something. This is a thing that I do that people see,' you know what I mean? It's very much legitimizing to have a community who wants to hear about the things I do in my life.
YM: Dr. Gratson's Communication and Public Life class. Way too obvious. No brainer. And, it actually has more to do with what I put into the class than what the class gives me because being in that class, being not necessarily forced but heavily encouraged to speak up taught me how to trust my opinion and express myself with intention, and be confident in my feelings and my thoughts and my words regardless of how other people receive it. It's taught me to be a much better communicator, that's the biggest thing.
What do you hope for your business's future?
TT: So right now I'm out of new ideas but I'm hoping that I find some inspiration to maybe put out new products. For now I've just been selling my t-shirts. I think it's pretty fun. I love selling on Depop.
MN: Right now I mostly do hats just because that's an easy thing to do and that's what most people want. I want to start moving into, like, sweaters and vests, but that's so much more of a commitment. I wanna move into other apparel and stuff. I've made bikini tops and bags for myself but I definitely have more experience with hats. That's definitely, like, my bread and butter.
YM: Impact. Impact. Impact is the end goal and it'll always be the end goal, not only for me but, obviously, for the clients themselves as well. Essentially, if your fashion has improved with my growth-based process of styling, it will ultimately result in attitudes or mindsets improving and I think that's a life-changing impact. Just leaving a footprint of The K Closet.
Interviews were edited slightly for length and clarity.