As part of the Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship at Florida State University, Sydney Gault and Kelsey Pemberton created a short-term business idea to execute at the annual JMC Exposition. Their love for the environment and creative spirit drove them to create a product that embodied their like-minded eco-consciousness. Sunny Made was born and they never expected that their upcycled peace sign totes would have such a profound impact on the FSU community. They began getting an overwhelming amount of direct messages on Instagram asking about the next merchandise drop for the bags. At this moment, Sunny Made manifested their once short-term ideas into a long-term reality.
Her Campus (HC): What was your mission at the start of your company?
Sunny Made (SM): Sunny Made started when we recognized a need to provide sustainable tote bags that positively impacted the world around us. We work to limit plastic usage and use upcycled fabrics. The last few years have been tumultuous, and peace has been hard to find. Through our bags, we hope to spread peace and kindness, striving to continue our philanthropic efforts.
HC: Who does your company cater to?
SM: Sunny Made envisions its shoppers to be predominantly women in their 20s, those who are fashionable and spend their weekends outdoors, exploring shops and enjoying the sunshine. These women work hard to know the world around them and how they can create positive change through buying habits. They see hundreds of bags, yet they choose to buy with Sunny Made because they believe in its mission statement.
HC: How many employees does your company have?
SM: Sunny Made is currently run solely by us, Kelsey Pemberton and Sydney Gault.
HC: How do you advertise your business?
SM: Instagram is our primary form of advertisement, but we have had some of our largest orders come from our network connections. This has shown us how important it is to develop relationships with not only your peers but also the adults around you, be that your professors, supervisors, or simply the successful individuals around you.
HC: How do you allocate resources at your company?
SM: Like most small businesses, Sunny Made devotes most of its resources to helping us grow as business owners and improve the quality of our bags. We are also philanthropically minded, so we pledge to give a percentage of our proceeds to charity. With that being said, whatever we have left serves as a personal stipend.
HC: Does your business give back to the community?
SM: Yes! We are very proud to say that we work to enhance the world around us, not only through using sustainable materials but also through charitable giving. Our recent drops have benefited the Save The Children relief fund which was dedicated to the Ukrainian crisis, and the Goodwill in the Big Bend region for their community service mission.
HC: Who are your primary competitors in your market?
SM: Our primary competitors are the larger retailers, as they have more resources and can produce on a much larger scale than us. This is why it’s so important that we have a bold mission statement and speak to the hearts of our customers, showing them the quality of our products with additional value founded in our efforts to serve the community.
HC: How much time did it take for your company to earn a profit?
SM: We were very fortunate that our company was able to earn profit immediately; we used a lot of resources we already had, and kept initial investment costs low. This is a structure I would advise all aspiring entrepreneurs to use initially, especially if they are testing new concepts. Entrepreneurship is always a risk, but the goal is to mitigate them the best we can.
HC: What do you consider the best aspect of having your business?
SM: I think that the best aspect of our business is the relationships we have developed with our customers. We love seeing our tote bags in use around the FSU campus, and many of them even went abroad this summer as so many girls were able to travel internationally. It is so special for us to be able to see that even with limited packing space, our totes were prioritized and used as a focal accessory.
HC: Do you plan to expand your business? If so, how?
SM: Currently, Sunny Made is working with local businesses to have our products placed in their stores. While our company predominately works on an e-commerce level, we see the value in having our products in brick-and-mortar stores. We are excited to be working with Tally and Fin, you should be seeing our products in store soon!
These down-to-earth college girls are absolutely killing the game as college business owners. Their creativity and connection to the community are shown through platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok, not to mention donating to charities. Sydney and Kelsey are excited to continue to curate and design their totes while having partnerships with local companies. As Sunny Made would say, “Spread the Peace” and support college business owners!