Students launch small businesses to keep busy, make money during pandemic

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Headlines, News

Despite the lack of in-person engagement to launch and grow a business, many young adults started a small business from home in the past year.

The COVID-19 pandemic created more free time in people’s daily routines by moving everyone’s lives online in 2020. The pandemic also caused many job losses and damaged people financially, Statistics Canada reported.

Due to the first lockdown in 2020, Jasmine Puthoor had to cancel her photoshoot plans for her business. Now she is promoting her products with her own photos and the ones that her customers send. (Jasmine Puthoor)

Many students and young adults found the solution by starting a business from home to stay productive and gain their financial freedom back.

“For someone who has been moving for so much in their life, to just sit at home after a while I needed something to take my mind off of it,” Jasmine Puthoor, a fourth-year engineering student at Ryerson University, said.

Puthoor had the idea of starting Susthira Jewels, where she makes sustainable and lightweight versions of traditional South Indian jewelry, in late 2019.

She was only able to focus and improve her business in March 2020, when the first lockdown hit, as that was the first time she wasn’t working since she was 16.

“It was the perfect time I had nothing else going for me,” Puthoor said.

New businesses always come with risks and challenges, but COVID-19 created many more for small business starters in Ontario with stay-at-home restrictions and health and safety guidelines.

Simrit Dhaliwal, a second-year student at McMaster University studying in Medical Radiation Sciences, started her business of customized press-on nails, Nails by Sim, in June 2020 in Brampton.

She said one of the most challenging aspects of the business during lockdowns was not being able to see her customers in-person.

“Everything is done over Instagram or online which can be difficult,” she said.

During the pandemic, social media became the main platform for small businesses to survive and grow, Asset Digital Communications reported.

“You really need to realize that you have to use social media to your advantage,” Anjelica Tzortzos said.

Tzortzos, a graduate from Ryerson University’s Urban and Regional Planning program, launched Sugar Nest a month ago in Toronto to sell baked goods. She said a good social media presence for new businesses is crucial, as people cannot go out to talk to friends and gain attention to their brand.

Dhaliwal said COVID-19 restrictions limited many small business owners from personally inspecting raw materials for quality, as some of the stores they need only operate online due to the pandemic.

“Pictures online can be deceiving,” Dhaliwal said, adding when she first started, she had to order different materials from online beauty supply stores until she figured out the ones that worked best.

Tzortzos said the pandemic made shopping for materials in the stores more challenging and increased the possibility of not being able to find the products she needed.

“You really have to think ahead of time what you’re going to need, you can’t do anything at the last minute,” she said.

“You definitely need to have good time management skills, that’s the only way you won’t become overwhelmed,” Tzortzos said.

She said managing a small business from home with additional responsibilities such as school and work can get people overloaded, so efficiency and time management is crucial.

Puthoor said starting a small business helped many young adults to be creative and gain the control in their life that they lost at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Right now, I’m trying to think how I can conduct this business productively and efficiently so that it balances with me,” she said.

“It finally gave people time to actually do something that they were happy to do, something to share with other people,” Puthoor said. “I love seeing all these small businesses that are coming up.”