Student Entrepreneur Spotlight: Annie Hunter
Being a student can be challenging on its own, but even more so when you take on the task of also running your own business. Annie Hunter, a sophomore at Virginia Tech majoring in marketing, excels not only in the classroom but also in running her own small business, Beaded Works Studio.
Hunter began creating beaded necklaces and jewelry as a hobby during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. She shared her work with her friends and family, who began to ask if she could make jewelry for them as well. With positive feedback from friends and family, Hunter was inspired to continue creating jewelry for others. “When my friends saw all of the jewelry I’d made during quarantine, they all wanted their own necklaces and were basically placing orders. That’s when I realized that I could start a business selling beaded jewelry,” said Hunter.
In April 2020, Hunter began Beaded Works Studio by selling her jewelry on Etsy. Beaded Works Studio sells handmade beaded necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. What began as a project to work on during quarantine has turned into a successful small business with over 85 five star reviews and over 346 sales to 46 different states in the US.
From custom college beaded necklaces to initial and monogram bracelets, Hunter has widely expanded her product line from when it began in 2020. With an education in marketing, Hunter has begun implementing the ideas she has learned in the classroom into developing marketing techniques and strategies for her own small business.
“It’s great being a business student while running my own business, because I can apply what I’m learning to improve my own business,” said Hunter. “It makes everything I’m learning feel a lot more relevant to me,”
Beaded Works Studio has also allowed Hunter to learn about business outside of the classroom. “I’ve learned that it’s worth taking a chance on ideas you're passionate about. I wasn’t sure if anyone other than friends and family would purchase my jewelry, but I really wanted to see if it was possible to just get one customer who wasn’t from my hometown. Then my goal of getting one customer changed to getting ten customers which changed to one hundred customers. I learned that setting goals for myself and breaking them down into smaller steps was key to growing my business,” said Hunter.
As any successful entrepreneur would, Hunter faced many challenges along the way. One of the biggest obstacles she dealt with was “the logistics of getting orders to customers,” said Hunter. When packages would get lost, Hunter would be responsible for remaking the orders to ensure she maintained a good relationship with her customers. “Oftentimes I would lose money when having to replace orders due to the cost of materials and shipping, but the cost is worth it because I would earn the trust of my customers which resulted in repeat purchases and good reviews,” said Hunter.
Another obstacle Hunter faces is balancing life as a full time student and entrepreneur. In addition to designing, creating, and packing jewelry, communicating with customers, and coordinating marketing strategies, Hunter also takes a full course load and participates in a number of extracurricular activities at Virginia Tech.
Despite a packed schedule, Hunter continues to thrive as a small business owner. It can seem intimidating turning your passions into a business while also being a full time student. Annie Hunter took on this challenge and now is a successful entrepreneur while also pursuing her degree in marketing. “There are difficult days being a full time student and getting a surge of orders, but it has definitely taught me time management skills,” said Hunter.
When asked what advice she had for other women in business, she said “My advice is to go for it. You don’t have to be perfect and you’ll learn from your mistakes. Sometimes the idea of having to be perfect keeps us from trying to do what we want to do, but it’s ok if you mess up. You can learn from it and make it better next time.”
By Katie Smith