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Starting a Small Business in the Midst of a Pandemic

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Delaware chapter.

From the start of the pandemic, many of us have resorted to learning new crafts and using art as both entertainment and a creative outlet with all of the new extra time on our hands. Some have even started their own small businesses, whether it be second-hand or upcycled clothes, baked goods, or handmade jewelry. Being on campus this semester, I had the great opportunity to meet and interview a small business owner herself, Mackenzie Rattigan. 

Mackenzie (Max) Rattigan (she/her) is an exercise science major with a minor in French at the University of Delaware, originally from New Jersey. Along with her passion for art, she really cares about acceptance in all forms as well as listening to others, which has greatly helped her with her business. One thing Max has learned throughout her experience thus far is how to take criticism with her work.

Her Campus: What is your business all about and what do you sell?

Max Rattigan: I sell handmade jewelry- I try to recycle pieces from things I used to have, and I’m also trying to appeal to the audience that really likes crystals, healing and self love. I haven’t done a whole lot of research on it, it’s kind of new to me as well but I really like the meaning and idea of it. I think there’s just a lot of places where you have to be careful- you don’t want to appropriate anything or steal anybody’s valued culture, so I haven’t done a whole lot more but I would like to learn more about it before moving on. For right now I try to just make cute dainty things that I feel like would appeal to a lot of people or just different styles that  could fit a multitude of communities.

HC: How do you think the pandemic has influenced your business? This can be in terms of how you go about advertising, creating or selling, or even your sales in general.

MR: So I actually didn’t start this until like July. Quarantine had been going on for a while and I was getting really bored, and I just found all this jewelry stuff in my basement like materials. So I just started messing around, I ordered some charms and I would basically post things on my Snapchat for my friends like “$5 if you want me to drop it off at your house” and I would do these mailbox exchanges where they would leave money in the mailbox. Then I exchanged the money for the jewelry so it was like a contactless kind of thing. And then in October, I made my Instagram and started advertising more but it was just really friends and family, and then my significant other offered to make a website since they are a computer science major, so they got me started. From there, my Instagram kind of grew; I have almost 200 followers right now. It’s still really small but it’s a lot more than I had when I was just making my friends things. So now it functions more like a regular business thing, like I have it set up through Woocommerce which is kind of technically a blog website but we linked it to PayPal so everything kind of goes through there. 

HC: How do you handle keeping up with studies, a social life, and your business?

MR: It’s been pretty easy honestly because I didn’t have experience before covid so I don’t really think it affected it, but I do think covid-19 kind of made it possible just because I had the down time to myself to start making stuff.

I always prioritized school, but if I’m ever frustrated or bored, or I just feel like I want to do something that isn’t staring at Zoom that’s kind of where I fill in the gaps with making things.  I’m not overly concerned about the success of the business, like it’s nice to have income, but I’m more interested in just enjoying what I do and making things I love and trying to share my art. So I feel like it’s not difficult to balance it since I’m not extremely focused on having a steady income or constantly making money, which would be ideal in the future, but I feel like right now this is just like something I enjoy doing. 

I actually think it’s helpful in social life sometimes because I’ve met more people in the building that way. They’ll be like “so I saw that you posted this in the chat, can you make something for me?” and it’s not like we become automatic friends but I get to know more faces and they get to know me so I think it’s actually been pretty helpful in that area.  

From talking to Max, it’s clear that she has a passion for her work and sharing it with others. Make sure to check out her products and support her business!




Sarah Rata

Delaware '24

Sarah is currently a freshman at the University of Delaware with a major in exercise science on the physical therapy/physician's assistant track. She enjoys embroidery, music, and cooking. Sarah is passionate about activism, body positivity, and overall wellness.