Turning your passion into work that not only pays the bills but also creates an impact and becomes part of people’s lives is a dream that many of us have and a challenge that many Gen Zers have been stepping up to take. So much so that you might not even know that the geniuses behind your favorite phone case, lip gloss, or thrifted item (wink, wink) are actually university students just like you!
Starting a business is a big leap of faith in itself, but growing and maintaining one—while in school, might I add!—is a feat that requires a whole other level of determination, consistency, purpose, and passion. But these four successful student entrepreneurs are living proof that it is completely possible.
Read on to know how they started and how they’ve managed to balance both acads and work despite all the challenges:
1. Paragon Pieces by Bella and Sofia Manzano
If you’ve ever spotted local celebs such as Moira Dela Torre or online personalities like Janina Vela sporting *really* pretty, sophisticated phone cases on Instagram, chances are they’re from Paragon! In the past year, they’ve also branched out into selling minimalist gold-plated jewelry and other dainty accessories such as beaded bracelets and mask necklaces, all of which are perfect for everyday use.
Paragon was founded by sisters Bella and Sofia Manzano in 2014 (yup, back when they were both in high school!), when the era of Instagram businesses had just begun. One thing we can learn from them? Don’t be afraid to take the leap!
As homeschooled kids who had a lot of time on their hands, they were always looking for ways to spend it by trying out new things and even venturing into different kinds of businesses. And although many of them didn’t last, the girls note that it is because of the failures and mistakes they’ve made along the way that they eventually got a grasp of what to do and what not to do, what works for them and what doesn’t. “So if things don’t seem to be looking good,” they advise, “keep trying new things and don’t be afraid to fail, because your failures will serve as a stepping stone to the next best thing.”
Being a two-man team handling literally everything from finance to marketing to website development—all while dealing with the stress that comes with high school and transitioning into college—Bella and Sofia share that there were many late-night sessions of packing and studying at the same time, and many moments they questioned why they were still doing it. But they continued to persevere, planned well, relied on each other for support, and eventually found their groove. “We didn’t succumb to fear and exhaustion,” they explain, “because we knew that Paragon was more than just a way for us to earn, but also a platform to express our creativity, an avenue to help other artists, and do what we know best.”
Bella is a fresh grad film student from MINT College, and Sofia is a sophomore taking up AB Development Studies at Ateneo de Manila University. When they aren’t doing work for school or inspiring others through Paragon, they like to travel to the beach, take long walks, and drink lots of coffee!
2. Hypergleam by Miki Liuson
Home to the prettiest, most hydrating lip glosses that are quickly becoming a staple in everyone’s makeup kits, Hypergleam (@hypergleam) is a local cosmetics brand that was launched and is thriving amidst the pandemic. When I say I can’t remember what life was like pre-Hypergleam, I’m not kidding.
The mastermind behind this addicting makeup line is Miki Liuson, a certified professional makeup artist, dancer, and a sophomore taking up BFA Information Design at Ateneo de Manila University. “Hypergleam all came from my passion for makeup,” Miki tells us. She had always dreamed of starting her own makeup line, but she didn’t expect it would come this soon!
Out of sheer curiosity and a craving for high-quality, affordable lip glosses, she did her research on the best oils and ingredients to make her own gloss and managed to come up with her own formula. It was really only supposed to be a mini project for herself, but ended up becoming so much more. Miki shares, “The idea of Hypergleam came from my desire to create a brand that is unconventional and set apart from the usual girly or dainty makeup branding.”
Balancing both being a student in the online setup and managing a one-woman business is no joke, but Miki allows herself the space to take it slow with either. “I wouldn't say school is a priority over my business, so I try my best to give as much time as needed for each,” she shares. “Besides, if you are passionate about something, you will always find time for it!”
One thing any aspiring entrepreneur can learn from Miki is that passion, partnered with research, authenticity, and uniqueness, outweighs all. When starting a business, passion will be your crutch and fuel. “Passion is what will drive you to create, innovate, and keep going even when times are tough,” she shares. “It will be the force inside you that motivates your actions and plans for your business, making it special not only to you but to those who experience it.”
3. Buy, Wear, Slay (or BWS) by Kristel Calatin
Online IG thrift stores are all the rage right now, and one shop that’s doing it all right is Buy, Wear, Slay (@bws.ph). Known for its colorful, quirky clothes and thrifted y2k pieces, BWS has garnered a total of 68,900 followers on Instagram—and counting! All items are collected and curated by owner Kristel Calatin, an incoming freshman taking up BS Psychology at Saint Michael’s College of Laguna and a true style icon herself (FR, check out her super aesthetic IG account @kristelcalatin).
Kristel started selling clothes online when she was only 14 years old—but it was totally unintentional! “Back then, I was really into dress up games, paper dolls, Mall World (the OG Facebook game!), and more kikay things,” she shares. Kristel started taking random pictures of her own clothes and posting them online after discovering her ate’s own IG shop (cute!). And to her surprise, some people were actually interested in purchasing them! Since then, she learned the ropes of online fashion and eventually opened BWS in 2016.
Kristel admits that she isn’t exactly the best at managing her time (it’s okay, sis, we feel you!). “But surprisingly,” she shares, “if you love what you do, it comes naturally!” At the end of the day when it comes to managing an online business, Kristel advises that above everything: consistency and determination is key. If it weren’t for her willingness to fight through every obstacle that came her way, BWS wouldn’t be the huge success that it is today. “If you enjoy and love what you do,” Kristel states, “hindi ka mahihirapang magpatuloy.”