The Lumberjack student newspaper
Photo by Zack Mink | Jesse Beacham Grijalva Prieto at the Festival of Dreams, Aug. 26

The Humboldt Hustle: Students and their small businesses

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by Zack Mink

The life of a student is jam-packed with endless homework assignments and quickly approaching deadlines, all while trying to stay afloat financially. Some students work on campus, some work multiple jobs and others have turned their skills into profitable businesses.

Brianna Juarez, a queer, Mexican-American, first-generation student is a senior majoring in philosophy with a minor in comparative ethnic studies. Aside from her hectic schedule, she creates maximalist polymer clay jewelry as The Crafty Bee Co, @thecraftybee.co on Instagram, and sells her art as a vendor at local events all over Humboldt County. 

Photo courtesy of Will Suiter of Humboldt Made | Brianna Juarez at the Friday Night Market in August

Juarez officially started her business in January of 2021 after finding a place where she, as a queer person of color, felt comfortable taking up space. That along with managing her chaotic school schedule and finding a balance between school, work, and self-care are the biggest struggles she faces as a small business owner. 

“As a small business owner, you play all of the roles. You’re your own boss, and I think being a student is also in some aspect being your own boss,” Juarez said.

Being a student and a business owner work together well, according to Juarez.

“Being a student has helped me be a better business owner,” said Juarez, “and being a business owner has helped me be a better student.” 

Photo by Zack Mink | Tonin Olsen at the Festival of Dreams, Aug. 26

Tonin Olsen, owner of Orange Skies, @orange.skies._ on Instagram, is a senior majoring in studio art. Olsen creates charm earrings and necklaces, as well as hand-designing stickers that bring a new level of confidence to other students, locals, and even themself. 

“I just wanted to create something that I could wear and feel better in my own body,” Olsen said.

Their business began almost two years ago and constantly expands into new ventures with the support and resources they have in the studio art department. Despite feeling support from their peers, Olsen hopes for more support from the institution itself. Some ideas they would like to see come to fruition would be more events on campus, and free transportation to off-campus events to help create a larger, more supportive community for students with small businesses.

Jesse Beacham Grijalva Prieto, an Indigenous, Latinx, Black, genderqueer/non-conforming student in their fourth year as a psychology major, is the owner of Mariposa Magic, @mariposa.magic on Instagram. Beacham creates all kinds of handmade art inspired by their diverse ethnic background and their queer identity. Wearing all of the hats as a business owner, balancing two other jobs, and being a full-time student are Beacham’s biggest challenges. Despite their full schedule, Mariposa Magic is still a priority.

Although it can be hard to balance the life of being a business owner and student, people in this community make an effort to get everything done and still come out on top. To them, it is a matter of personal success, both mentally and in the physical form.

“My business is so much more than a business,” Beacham said. “It’s part of my emotional healing.”

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