While juggling classes and extracurriculars, some Emory students are also tackling entrepreneurship. Boutique owner Trinity Peacock (25C), fitness trainer Damon Ross Jr. (22C) and custom clothing designer Lyric Vinson (23B) have all launched Black-owned small businesses.
While browsing Instagram in the beginning of quarantine, Vinson discovered social media users reselling thrifted and used clothing. She began listing her own items on Instagram and was met with immediate success. Quickly realizing thrifting limited her inventory, she branched into creating custom clothing.
“With thrifting, you can’t control what you are going to find,” Vinson wrote in a Feb. 7 email to the Wheel. “But if you are making custom clothing, you control your inventory, your designs, and you can better appeal to the market.”
In late March 2020, Vinson launched EzPz Customs (“Easy Peasy Customs”) on Instagram, The Custom Movement, Depop, Etsy and Curtsy. Having sold over 360 clothing items thus far, she aims to branch into custom stickers, bags and more once she perfects the designs.
Although a fashion lover herself, Vinson admitted she struggled to learn her market.
“I had to learn to find and curate pieces that weren’t necessarily my style, but that I knew would appeal to the masses,” Vinson wrote. “I have an objective eye for what is nice … and what isn’t.”
Vinson also noted that the everyday fluctuations of a small business can be discouraging. Though she believes her business has been successful, there are days when business stagnates. Despite this, she has become more resilient over time and these experiences have taught her valuable skills she hopes to utilize in her post-graduate career.
“I am using this as an experience for my future career,” Vinson wrote. “It is teaching me how to sell, how to interact with customers and how to be resilient.”
Similarly to Vinson, Peacock also launched her business, Trinndy Boutique, on Instagram last March. She first started by selling fake eyelashes and soon expanded to include lip glosses, clothing, handbags and other accessories.
Peacock’s business model revolves around reselling inventory bought through wholesale manufacturers. She said that launching her business was initially challenging because she didn’t know whether the monetary investment would pay off.
“Getting my inventory built up was challenging,” Peacock said. “And actually starting not knowing if it was going to be successful or not … Am I wasting money?”
Peacock mostly advertises through social media and websites, but her customers also support her business through word of mouth. Ultimately, she aims to open a storefront in Atlanta in the next five to 10 years.
“I have always wanted to have my own business and it’s going well so far,” Peacock said.
Instead of selling products like Vinson and Peacock, Ross sells a service: fitness training. Ross started out by training friends and family. After successfully working with a close friend his first year at Emory, news of Ross’ fitness training traveled quickly around campus.
Ross then began building his business, “113 fitness,” and has worked with around 100 clients individually. Though he mainly trains college students, his clients range from seven-year-olds to those in their mid-50s. Most of his clients hope to lose weight, while some aim to gain muscle.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ross worked around 25 hours a week in addition to attending classes. He trained clients in the gym, planned their fitness routines, filed paperwork and networked with other trainers and gym owners. His in-person workouts go for $20 a session and online workouts are priced at $50 per month.
Ross admitted he was initially hesitant about launching his business due to the significant time commitment.
“I would say the biggest challenge is getting my mindset right,” Ross said. “How am I going to balance school, social life, my overall health and wellbeing and take care of a business? Once I was able to get past the block in my mind, everything just fell into place.”
After graduation, Ross aspires to launch his own gym combined with a health and wellness center in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. He hopes to benefit his entire community through his fitness center with accessible clinics focused on physical therapy and mental health.
“I want it to be more than a gym,” Ross said. “I want it to be centered around the community … I believe that everyone can eat.”