While some college women dream of working for a big company someday, others dream of working for themselves. With a bit of motivation, resources, and a clear vision in mind, any woman can be their own boss — especially those who already have an entrepreneurial spirit. Although many college students are juggling classes, homework, extracurriculars, and a social calendar that doesn’t leave much room for other activities, some use the extra seconds in their day to start their own small businesses and side hustles.
A Nielsen study reports that approximately 54% of Gen Zers want to start their own businesses. Along with the Great Resignation — in which a record number of young workers are quitting their jobs — it looks like young women entrepreneurs are seeing major success. Whether it’s freelancing in between classes or starting a business online, you can do whatever you set your mind to, and it’s never too late to turn your side hustle or passion project into a full-blown career. Here are three college women who have done it, from building a fashion brand to managing their favorite musicians. They followed their dreams of starting a business in college, and you can, too.
Katelyn Hannan, Creator of 99 Angels NYC
While working at Alo Yoga during the pandemic, 22-year-old Katelyn Hannan decided to quit her job and start 99 Angels, a fashion brand where angelic vibes meet the 90s and Y2K. As a graphic design and business student at Marymount Manhattan College, Hannan had previously founded Daisy’s Denim, a sustainable fashion brand where she converted thrifted denim jackets into unique, hand-painted statement pieces. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, Hannan had time to reflect on her business and decided to relaunch with 99 Angels, a made-to-order brand full of colorful, 90s streetwear-inspired pieces she designed by hand.
When Hannan saw an opening at New York City’s Canal Street Market, she knew that the opportunity had come to showcase her designs to the public. Not long after, she landed the spot and began filling the space with unique apparel. “I had to make the space my own,” Hannan tells Her Campus. “Half of it was really fun, comfortable art-wear and streetwear that you can wear throughout all stages of the day, and the other half was thrifted clothes I love.”
For Hannan, the first day of setting up shop at Canal Street Market was nerve-wracking. “I was so nervous, like What if I don’t make the money back? and What if it’s a failure? I remember my boyfriend told me, ‘It’s not a failure…you are learning and seeing what people like. Keep going for the next one and doing it again,’” Hannan tells Her Campus. But within two hours of having her booth set up, she made all her money back. It was then she realized that 99 Angels could be successful.
It’s not an easy task to manage a business while attending college, but Hannan has made her busy schedule work. At first, to get the word out about her brand, she traveled around New York City networking with small businesses, sending her clothes to influencers, and amping up her social media skills.
“Whenever I would get a free second, I was posting on Instagram like crazy, doing photoshoots with friends, drawing to create a new design every week, and I was doing giveaways,” Hannan tells Her Campus. “I would also stumble into stores and ask them if they like local art and show them my stuff, then they would take it.”
While hustling to spread the word about 99 Angels, Hannan got the opportunity to do a brand takeover in a storefront called The Butterfly Club in collaboration with another clothing brand, Isle of Monday. In February, she put on a Galentine’s Day event where she showcased gem-colored elevated pajama sets, hoodies inspired by her 90s childhood, angel trucker hats, and more. Hannan smiles and recalls how successful the event was: “We were only supposed to have 15 people at the event, and it ended up going up to 300 people.”
When asked what kept her motivated when first starting out, Hannan says it’s been rewarding to know her pieces are being well-received. “What kept me going were all these feelings of a ‘ping’ in my heart,” Hannan says. “Every time I would go into [a store] like the Butterfly Club, and the owners would say ‘yes’ to putting my designs in their store, there was a ‘ping.’ I was like, ‘OMG, this is amazing.’”
Now, with 2,500 followers, 37.9k likes, and thousands of views on TikTok, Hannan has seen the power of TikTok on her account, @99Angels. She posts videos about how to style her designs, what her life is like as a small business owner, and more to build a niche audience and share her brand with the world. Hannan even wants to expand her designs to the Metaverse. “99 Angels is moving into the Metaverse and NFT world,” she tells Her Campus. “All of my 99 Angels fashion wear is going to be on these NFTs, so you can actually buy them on my website.”
Beyond her NFT plans, Hannan is primarily focused on moving into her own storefront, which she hopes can serve as a coffee shop and creative space where she can sell her clothes and teach classes about painting and upcycling. “I really want to create a community of different creatives so we can all lend a hand to each other in the business world, gas everyone up, give advice, and do fun creative events,” Hannan tells Her Campus.
If you want to start a business too, Hannan believes manifesting and putting an image to your business goals is a great place to start. “Journal about what it really is and why you want it.”
Sarai Quinice, owner of Underground Nailroad
Sarai Quinice, a 20-year-old Theatre and New Media and Business double major at Marymount Manhattan College, is a go-getter. Apart from being a college student, she is also a working actor who runs two businesses: Underground Nailroad, a nail business that grew out of her childhood love of painting nails, and Resumes by Rye, a professional resume-making business for actors. Being an entrepreneur comes to Quinice as a sixth sense — and apart from being the owner of two small businesses, she is also a working actor. “My first brand is Sarai Quinice the actress,” she says.
Today, Quinice’s primary business is Underground Nailroad, where she offers manicure and pedicure services with “railroad-themed” names like “One Way,” “Booster Seat,” and “Couples Retreat.” She tells Her Campus that her love for painting nails was born when she received her first nail kit.
“My mom presented me with my first nail kit one Christmas, and it was a bunch of polishes and filers,” she says. “I was learning how to paint nails with quick-dry polish, and I actually found that [painting nails] gave me peace with making art while also making someone else happy.”
Quinice got the idea to start her own nail business during 2019-2020 while out to lunch with her acting coach, who asked if she wanted to get her nails done. While most people would expect a visit to a local salon, Quinice recalls her coach bringing her to an “underground” space. “We went into her basement and she pulled out all of her nail stuff. You wouldn’t think she had an ‘undercover’ nail thing going on,” Quinice tells Her Campus. “I actually presented the name ‘Underground Nailroad’ to her first,” but when the coach passed on the idea, Quinice saw it as the perfect opportunity to use the name for her own nail business.
She then decided to start Underground Railroad and bring her nail business to NYC, where nail services tend to run high. “I was a freshman when I started [Underground Nailroad],” she says. “I was in the dorm telling people I was just starting out with nails and I wasn’t going to charge much for it.” Soon, Quinice began painting fellow students’ nails on campus (when the pandemic hit, she decided to run her business from home).
Today, Quinice offers natural gel polish manicures and pedicures which clients can book through her Instagram page and website. She provides services out of her hometown in Philadelphia and has even worked with brands like CeraVe. Quinice also has big plans for the future: She is on track to receive her nail technician license this summer at the Queen Beauty Institute in Philadelphia and wants to invest in a property in Atlanta, where she can grow her business and hire other Black nail technicians.
“I want to build a strip — with the Underground Nailroad being one of the businesses on the strip — and everything else will also be owned by me,” Quinice tells Her Campus. As someone who grew up in Philadelphia, Quinice credits her hometown for her ambition and passion for entrepreneurship, calling it the “Philly hustle.”
If you’re interested in starting your own business in college, Quinice says, “Do it and figure out the rest later. Yes, it is challenging with school, but when you get out of college, what will you fall back on other than your degree? Know what you are passionate about, then make it your priority.”
Abby Haralson, Music & Band Manager
In August 2021, 21-year-old Abby Haralson accidentally became a music manager. While pursuing a BFA in Screen Acting at Chapman University, she found herself in the right place at the right time. A close friend and the bassist for a local band were concerned about promoting their upcoming show and asked Haralson for support.
“It was sometime in mid-July when Braden Joe, a close friend, and bassist of the band Coyote Pond, called me up saying he was worried about selling tickets for their show at Viper Room,” Haralson tells Her Campus. She then helped her friend by making promo material, sending show details to everyone she knew, and even making a Facebook event for the band. “The day of the show, [Joe] called me and was like, ‘You are our biggest supporter and a super hard worker…the band and I talked, and we want you to manage us,’” she recalls.
What began as a kind gesture for a friend turned into a full-on profession. “I told them, ‘Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ll sure as hell figure out what I need to do,’” Haralson tells Her Campus. “Turns out I’m kick-ass at managing bands.”
Soon after, Haralson hit the ground running. “Within four months I was able to network my way through the Orange County music scene and even got the opportunity to book Coyote Pond as the opener for the incredible Clinton Kane,” she tells Her Campus. “I was able to take on multiple clients like KLAS and North Morlan (RIP) and host music events and concerts,” Haralson said. She continues to be booked and busy, and she recently booked a few of her artists at the Back to Basics Festival.
Juggling multiple projects at once comes naturally to Haralson; she describes herself as a “doer” who is always on the go. And although music business is now a natural career fit, stumbling into music management came as a surprise to Haralson — especially after she suffered a vocal injury at a young age that she thought would derail her dreams of becoming a singer.
“I had never thought that I would be involved in the music industry due to my vocal injury, but I immediately fell in love with [music business] and knew that I couldn’t stop,” Haralson tells Her Campus.
Although the music industry can be a competitive place, Haralson credits her success to networking, interning, and being in the right place at the right time. “I’m kind of a right place, right time kind of lady,” Haralson says. “I also go to a lot of record label events and try and talk to as many people as I can to see how close to the sun I can ‘girl boss.'”
In Haralson’s experience, working as a music manager has challenged her to step outside of her comfort zone. “[Music management] makes me feel powerful! I love announcing to a group of burly men that I am, in fact, the manager of the band and that they will have to do their business through me,” she says. “The look on their faces never gets old! It’s empowering and it’s helped me gain a lot of self-confidence and even work on getting over my fear of confrontation.”
The Chapman University senior now splits her time between attending classes, acting, interning, and of course, managing bands. But as graduation day approaches, she wants to take time to learn more about management and leadership to prepare for the real world. “I love helping people, and if I’m able to help get them closer to their dreams, then I’m winning at the end of the day,” Haralson says.
To all the girlies who want to take on a new challenge — whether it’s starting a business in college or otherwise —\ Haralson says, “Don’t say no or turn something down because you’re scared or if you feel like it’s out of your wheelhouse. If you set your mind to it, you can do anything. Be the person that your inner child would be proud of.”
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.