Entrepreneurs strike a balance between business ownership and student life
Ithaca College senior Oluwadamilola Oyetunji said the first time she made a wig for someone else was in high school, and all she had to use was black dollar floss, a needle, a wig cap and hair provided by her client.
“One day I came to school with my hair up and a wig I made myself and this girl asked me, ‘Who did your hair,’ and I said, ‘Oh, I did it,’ and she said, ‘Well, you can you make me?” “, Oyetunji said. “She came to my house because she wanted to try [the wig] on. I put it on her and it fit just right and she just fell in love. She’s been a regular customer ever since and she inspired me to create a real Instagram page to market myself.”
Oyetunji, founder of Wigs by Dams, was one of five student entrepreneurs featured in the college’s Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, and Social Change (IDEAS), a student of color business expo on October 7. The exhibition was held in the hall of the African Society in the West Tower, as well Universal experience, Mali Kutz, Ladies Love and Mamaz is a boy Clothes. At the event, which was part of the First Friday with IDEAS series, gave attendees the opportunity to meet student entrepreneurs, learn about their businesses, and network. After the event, students had the opportunity to stay and spend time with each other in a more informal way, playing games.
“It was so cool [the Center for IDEAS] did it because I was trying my best to market my business so that people know there is a business for them, for black girls, on campus,” Oyetunji said. “When they had an exhibition, it was my opportunity to talk about my business and let people know that if you need a haircut, I’m the person to call. It has definitely helped in promoting and supporting my business. It was a huge deal for me that they contacted me.”
Junior Liguori Flanagan said the IDEAS Center and Angelica Carrington, director of the IDEAS Center, have been a constant support to his business, Mamaz Boy Apparel. Mamaz Boy Apparel is a clothing brand that he has been developing since 2020.
“Every month they ask me if they can support something, just want to buy something from me,” Flanagan said. “[Carrington]she was always so helpful.’
Flanagan said it can be difficult to balance business and being a student, but other students at the college are very supportive. Flanagan said that whenever he walks around campus with his products, students ask him about the brand and how they can help him promote it.
“Definitely the good and positive energy I get from other people makes me want to keep running it,” Flanagan said. “It just forces me to juggle school work and business and manage both.”
Flanagan said he named his company Mamaz Boy Apparel because he wanted everyone to relate to it, whether they were thinking about being a mother themselves or thinking about becoming a mother themselves one day. Flanagan said his mom is a huge support system in his life and always reminds him that there’s nothing in this world he can’t do.
“I just wanted us all to have a neutral point of contact,” Flanagan said. “I really wanted to [the company] to be an inclusive thing where regardless of gender, regardless of race, we could all connect with each other in some form or another. That’s why I chose the clothes, because we can all wear a Mamaz Boy t-shirt.’
Junior Anisha Sandiford, who runs The Universal Experience, said Carrington also helped her feel included and set up her business in college.
“I just met her this semester, but she was very hospitable to me,’ said Sandiford. “[She’s been] giving me ideas and providing a spotlight to grow my business.”
Universal Experience is a hair and beauty service for people of color that helps black students take good care of their hair while away from home. Sandiford said she hopes to one day open several businesses around predominantly white institutions (PWIs) like Ithaca College to offer affordable hair care to black students.
A PWI is higher education institution where 50% or more students there is white students. According to the college Office of Analytics and Institutional Researchin the fall of 2022, white students made up 72.4% of the college’s students and Babsence, Indigenous people and people of color made up 23.2% of students.
Oyetunji said it is important for black students to have hair care options.
“It’s hard to find ways to really take care of your hair, especially with PVI. I provide this option: “Hey, I’m lazy, I don’t want to twist my hair and stay up until two in the morning trying to figure out what to do with my hair.” I have a more convenient option, like I wake up for class at 9am and can just wear a Dami wig. I want that to be an option for black girls.”