Binghamton University is home to a variety of student-run businesses that help keep the community unique. Bearcat student entrepreneurs have incorporated their artistic talents into business to create a multitude of local shops where customers can purchase items from clothing to cosmetics.
Ari Gurvitch, a sophomore majoring in cinema, joined Smily in 2020 after his hometown friend had the idea to start a business. Soon, more of his friends joined, and the group worked together to produce the colorful Smily sweaters, t-shirts and hats — which feature the rainbow Smily logo designed by Gurvitch’s friend. Gurvitch’s favorite item is the Smily squidward tee, which can be found on the business’ Instagram page, @smilystreetwear. Gurvitch expressed appreciation for the recent Student Flea Market hosted by the Student Association Programming Board (SAPB).
“The biggest challenge of running a business would have to be exposing the brand itself,” Gurvitch said. “It’s really hard to get a brand out there and make it popular when there are so many these days. That’s why I was so excited when they announced the Binghamton flea market.”
Love Laura Nicole
Love Laura Nicole earring boutique was created “in a spur of the moment” in January 2022 by Laura Zibbon, a junior majoring in business administration, who was inspired by a love for “art and design” and an Etsy advertisement for polymer clay earrings. Zibbon’s earrings were initially created as a hobby, which took off and eventually led Love Laura Nicole to become an Etsy shop of its own. All the earrings are created by Zibbon herself, who hand-makes the jewelry with “mini cookie cutters,” of which she claims to own around 500. The designs that can be found on Love Laura Nicole’s Instagram, Facebook and TikTok pages, all with the username, @love.lauranicole. Zibbon gave her advice for students interested in starting a small business of their own.
“When you first start a business, don’t expect tons of people to know your business exists,” Zibbon wrote in an email. “When I first started, a lot of my sales came from friends and family. It wasn’t until a month or two after I started that I got my first order from a stranger. Keep working if it is something that you enjoy doing because the more and more you promote on social media and at events, the more people will know about your business.”
Beauty by Abena.I
Isabel Owusu, a second-year graduate student pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy, began Beauty by Abena.I in August 2021 to incorporate her love for makeup into business. As featured on the business’ social media pages, Owusu creates an array of makeup styles that are made possible by her makeup line. The most difficult part of running her business, according to Owusu, has been balancing her work time with pharmacy school. One product sold is an eyeshadow palette, “Shades of Africa,” which includes 20 different shades displayed on an Africa-shaped palette. “Shades of Africa,” along with other products, can be found on TikTok and Instagram @beautybyabena.i.
Anna Darling, a sophomore majoring in psychology, began her jewelry business, ADarling Jewelry, in May of 2020. Darling discovered her love for creating jewelry during the COVID-19 shutdown, and creates her jewelry because she finds it “quite soothing.” She began selling her products on Etsy after “making a sizable amount of jewelry,” and moved her business to Instagram only after beginning school at BU. Her favorite item is the “wire-wrapped sun necklaces,” which can be found on her shop’s Instagram page, @adarlingjewlery.
The Neon Closet
The Neon Closet began about a year ago, when Matthew Larocchia, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, turned his focus from selling miscellaneous items to clothing — vintage-style clothing in particular. Larocchia creates all of The Neon Closet’s clothing designs — seen on eBay and social media — himself, claiming he “[tries] to stick with the ‘neon light’ motif” that coordinates with his store’s title. Larrochia described the school-work balance as his greatest challenge with the running of his business.
“One piece of advice would be to make sure your business is something you actually have a real interest in,” Larocchia said. “Back when I was selling random things just for the money it felt like a chore, but now that my business is based around something that I enjoy looking for and collecting, it feels a lot less like work.”
Many student-run businesses can be found at SAPB’s Student Flea Markets, which feature businesses run by BU students. The next Student Flea Market will be held on March 21 in room 102 of the University Union from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.