Youth unemployment skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, causing some enterprising college students to turn to sideline jobs to make ends meet.
Unemployment among young people (aged 16 to 24) peaked in April 2020 at 27.4% – that is almost one in three unemployed.
Meanwhile, Etsy reported that the number of sellers on its platform had almost doubled to 4.4 million by the end of 2020. They’re not broken down by age group, but Etsy reports that the average age of its sellers is typically 39, but last year when YouTubers started selling goods during the pandemic, the average age dropped to 33. That means a lot of young people used Etsy as a source of income.
Face masks, disinfection kits, homemade household items, care packages, and even virtual hugs were some of the part-time jobs that arose during the pandemic. They sold them on ecommerce sites like Etsy, but also directly on social media platforms like Instagram.
According to Instagram, 90% of its users follow a company. And 50% of users surveyed by Facebook (the parent company of Instagram) said they would be more interested in a brand when they saw ads for it on Instagram.
Madison Klimchak, a senior at the University of South Carolina, started Masked by Madison, selling face masks during the pandemic.
Source: Madison Klimchak
Madison Klimchak, a 20-year-old aspiring senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in finance, risk management, and insurance, sold personalized reusable masks to sororities and other organizations. She advertised them on Instagram and her typical order was 150 to 400 masks at the height of the pandemic in March. She sold them for about $ 10 each, and a portion of the proceeds were donated to the Emotional PPE Project, which connects health care workers with mental health services.
Klimchak said she chose Instagram because she already had a following and it was easier to advertise on her personal accounts.
As business started to slow down as mask requirements were relaxed, college entrepreneurs like Klimchak had to make a decision: switch to a different type of business or close it? Ultimately, she decided to close the shop and focus on her career and take her Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).
“I’ll think about going back, but for now I’ll be focusing on studying for my GRE,” said Klimchak. She found that her experience helped her understand the business world and develop skills for her future.
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Jacqueline Cabrera, a 23-year-old former student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, also sold masks during the pandemic. She sold them in Uptown Manhattan, both through her personal Instagram account and the one she used to showcase her fashion design portfolio.
Cabrera said she chose Instagram because she already had a following.
“I already had an Instagram page / website for my fashion design portfolio on which I would occasionally showcase some of my work, so this is where I started selling my face masks,” said Cabrera. “I also advertised it on my personal Instagram where I had more followers, which definitely helped draw more attention to my business.”
Cabrera’s business lasted a successful 8 months and generated revenues of $ 2,000 to $ 3,000. But as the number of mask sellers increased and sales decreased, she finally decided to return to her career in fashion design.
Jacqueline Cabrera, a recent Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, sold face masks and used her fashion design skills during the pandemic.
Source: Jacqueline Cabrera
“The market for them became very saturated from the pandemic when it went from nobody to everyone who sold them,” Cabrera said.
“In the fashion industry, I wanted to grow professionally, so I thought, why not use my skills and follow the example of the industry I wanted to be in?” Cabrera explained. “I was able to get my first full-time position in the fashion industry as an assistant designer.”
Cabrera said she certainly thought of going back to her business one day and focusing on clothing or accessories.
For other college students who have already had sideline jobs with Covid illnesses, like 22-year-old Grace Williams, the pandemic actually forced a turning point.
Williams graduated from Farmingdale State College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2020 amid the pandemic. It had created a slimy business new year for college – a few years before the pandemic. She advertised on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, which enabled her to connect with followers and build relationships. She also personally attended slime conventions in the United States and personally sold them to thousands of ticket holders.
Grace Williams, a recent graduate of Farmingdale State College, started a successful slime business but switched to Tik Tok video content during the pandemic.
Source: Grace Williams
“It was great that my product was handcrafted as the cost was low and I was in control. But it had its downside when the pandemic broke out and everyone was nervous with germs, ”she said.
Sales began to decline.
So Williams turned around: she started creating content on TikTok and looked for brands that wanted to promote their products. There were many benefits to this move: she no longer had to create physical products and manage inventory, and could work from anywhere.
“At that point, I’ve completely switched my practical business to hands-off, relying on technology and creating content from my phone,” she said.
“I’ve always had a passion for creating content and making others smile through my videos,” said Williams. “This means I can work remotely from anywhere in the world and have a positive influence on others.”
Starting a business when the economy is suffering might be far from easy, but these young entrepreneurs have reflected on their experiences and have advice for college students who may consider outside employment.
“Plan and learn how to manage your time,” said Cabrera. “I would recommend having an inventory rather than making products to order.”
Klimchak says don’t be afraid of failure.
“Make a plan and implement it by being open to new ideas and innovations and watch it transform into something you never thought possible,” said Klimchak.
CNBC’s “College Voices” is a series written by CNBC interns from universities across the country about getting their college education, managing their own money, and starting their careers during these extraordinary times. Jessica Coacci is a student at Stony Brook University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is an intern at CNBC’s Breaking News Desk. Your mentor is Cat Clifford. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.