Most students’ schedules are already busy between classes, student organization meetings and internships, but some students have added more to their plates by starting their own businesses while still in college.
From custom sneakers to a preppy clothing line to a fundraising website, these students have built businesses between classes and are each looking for new ways to grow them. These are three student-run businesses to keep an eye on.
Junior Annie Rishty painted her first pair of shoes for her best friend during her senior year of high school. Now she runs a custom sneaker company called SneaxByArish and has sold 27 pairs since she began selling on Etsy during her freshman year at GW.
“I was kind of scared to do it, because I had never done it before, and I hadn’t taken a drawing or art class in years,” Rishty said. “But I started sketching some stuff out, and it just kind of came together. The first pair took me about a week to do, and my friend cried when I showed him the final product.”
Rishty purchases white Vans sneakers and then covers them with sketches tailored to the customer’s preferences. A typical pair costs $154, and she sells them exclusively on Etsy. Last summer, Rishty partnered with the Japanese snack brand Pocky to design a pair of shoes for the brand that would be featured in its Etsy shop.
Rishty, a business administration major with concentrations in innovation and entrepreneurship and marketing, said her entrepreneurship classes at GW don’t describe the process of starting a business correctly.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘That’s not how you do it,’” Rishty said. “There’s no way to tell you how to start a business. You just do. You might go into debt, and you might struggle and you might get a lot of rejection, but that’s the risk you take.”
Rishty only produces her custom sneakers during the summer and school breaks, but she markets her products year-round, she said.
Rishty plans to get a full-time job after she graduates, but she also wants to continue designing and selling the shoes, too. She said she plans on expanding her services next year to paint custom designs on other products like laptop cases.
“After a stressful day at work, you’re going to want to do something that you love and enjoy,” Rishty said. “I just love making people happy.”
Rufus & Royce
Juniors Calista Tavallali and John Kim wanted to enter the rapidly growing market of preppy wear, so they teamed up with Tavallali’s brother last June to start Rufus & Royce – a website that they described as selling affordable upscale clothing, specializing in embroidered shorts.
“Preppy wear is really big right now,” Tavallali said. “Chubbies is huge. These companies are doing really well, so we just wanted to get in that market now while it’s still hot.”
One of their designs is a $65 pair of shorts called “The Reagans,” which feature pink stripes and the Republican elephant in small embroidered patches. The women’s version is called “The Nancies.” Other products include a $30 “‘Merica” hat with an embroidered American flag.
Tavallali, an organizational sciences and business administration major, and Kim, a psychology major and business administration minor, entered their business idea in GW’s New Venture competition in January and were semi-finalists. The competition offers young entrepreneurs the chance to develop their business ideas to win funding. Tavallali and Kim didn’t win any prize money as semi-finalists, and they are currently funding operations with money they make and money they've saved.
“It was a great way when we were first starting out to think about our business plan, think about who we want our customers to be, and figure out what our values as a company were,” Tavallali said. “GW definitely helped us formulate what the company is today.”
Travallali and Kim are heavily invested in Rufus & Royce, but they're not certain if they will be able to proceed after they graduate.
“We’re definitely all passionate about it, and so we’d still like to work on it,” Kim said. “But we might graduate and get jobs where we’re not allowed to have another business because of conflict of interest.”
When junior Ari Krasner and his friends Max Friedman and Liran Cohen decided to create Givebutter, a fundraising website to promote charitable giving in college students, they did not expect it to become a near-full-time venture.
“We came up with an idea, we wanted to do it and we did it within three days,” Krasner said. “The rest of it just happened.”
Through Givebutter, organizations who want to raise money create profiles to publicize their causes. Those who donate to their projects can write their own personal messages about why they donated money to appear on the organization’s profile.
“We wanted to take the fun, excitement, everything you do when you’re donating offline and put it online, so we can change the industry for the better,” Krasner said.
In May, students in Jewish Colonials Chabad teamed up with Givebutter to raise more than $16,000 for a Kosher food truck on campus.
For Krasner and his partners, being college students helps establish a connection with clients who are also their peers.
“We are actually students, we were student leaders and we know the needs of students. We’re not pretending to be something that we’re not," Krasner said.
Over the summer, Givebutter started an ambassador program to tell other college students about the site. The 160 staff members, referred to as Butter Ambassadors, are stationed on about 100 campuses.
Krasner said he plans to work on Givebutter full-time after graduation.
“It is absolutely not even a question that we will continue this in the future and continue to secure larger and larger partnerships with organizations," he said. "Full steam ahead."