The Benefits of Side Hustles: How Binghamton students are creating small businesses and developing skills

Nationally, there has been a trend of consumers moving away from mass produced goods and fast fashion in favor of smaller sellers who offer unique pieces with a personalized touch. In this space, several Binghamton students have been able to establish successful small businesses online–and in the process, they added unique and important experiences to their resumes. Three students, who each have sold hundreds of items to buyers across the country, explain how their business has contributed to their personal development and offer advice for students looking to start their own business.

Anna Schonberg, the owner of popular Instagram account and shop @hotbitchthrift, has been running her Depop and Instagram accounts since Fall of 2020–and in about a year, she has grown her following to approximately 1,300 people and made sales all over the world. Schonberg’s business model involves strategically thrifting finds that fit into popular aesthetics and reselling them online. As an environmental science major, her business ties very well into her academic studies. Her classes discuss how harmful the clothing industry is for the environment, and by encouraging the reuse of secondhand clothing she is reducing waste and limiting fast fashion. She even goes a step further and ships with eco-friendly packaging. 

But if you talked to Schonberg a year ago, the idea of starting a business was not even on her mind. “I was looking for a part time job, but I couldn’t find one due to the pandemic,” she recalls. “I began selling some of my clothes on Depop and had a lot of fun taking photos and creating content. I definitely started my Depop page as a passion project, but once I started gaining traction, I realized I could do a lot more with it.” Reflecting on her business, she has been amazed to see how far her pieces have traveled and loves to hear how much her customers enjoy their new items.

The shop has also helped her make career moves in other areas. Schonberg applied to several positions this past summer, and she found that many skills she gained while managing her business translated well to other roles. “[In interviews,] I could highlight different aspects of running a small business, including customer service, product sourcing, trend analysis, marketing or designing photo shoots,” she said. These transferable skills are invaluable to numerous jobs and internships.

There is another very notable thrifting business at Binghamton: Binghamton Thrifts (@binghamtonthrifts), run by Olivia Le. Similar to Schonberg, Le has a passion for thrifting and helping the environment, and starting a thrifting business emerged as the perfect way to combine the two while also making some extra money. 

“I think it’s super cool that you can discover one-of-a-kind quality vintage items at bargain prices while simultaneously helping to combat fast fashion,” Le notes. “But since I go thrift shopping so often, I eventually decided to mix my interests in entrepreneurship, sustainability, social media and thrifting to give these clothes loving homes!” 

Le is a marketing student, so the experience of owning and promoting a small business has been perfect for her resume. She has total creative freedom over the business and marketing strategies, which has allowed her to try new things and develop innovative strategies. This process requires many of the top skills successful marketers need, notably social media marketing, interpersonal communication, graphic design, and problem solving. But Le is most excited about how different this type of experience is from what is on many other marketing resumes, stating that she “strongly believes it helps [her] stand out amongst all the other applicants during the hiring process.”  And she is absolutely correct–not many college students can boast they have started a small business, amassed almost 4,000 followers, and even raised close to $1,000 for charities in the process.

But starting a small business does not always have to tie in so closely with the student’s area of study. Emma Pawliczak, who is obtaining her master’s in mechanical engineering, started her own Etsy shop a few months ago and sells handmade jewelry. She began learning the art of jewelry making as “an outlet to motivate [her] creative expression.” The business serves as a way for her to focus on her creativity, which is a needed brain break from her extremely technical work developing her thesis on Electrospray atomization at Binghamton University’s Microfluidics and Multiphase Flow Laboratory (MMFL). 

Even though owning a business does not directly translate into her engineering work, Pawliczak believes that she has gained many important skills. She works hard to manage inventory, conduct good customer service, and manage her time effectively between school and jewelry making. This is also a great exercise in creativity and innovation for her, as she develops new designs regularly to keep her shop current.

The experience has been extremely rewarding for Pawliczak–her jewelry has been worn at rehearsal dinners, weddings, and graduations, and she is humbled that her pieces are a part of the special life events of her customers. “Being able to connect in person with my customers would be a wonderful experience,” she said. “ I would also love to sell my jewelry in person at craft fairs!”

But starting a small business is not easy, and each shop owner has the same advice to fellow students: go for it, and don’t give up! It is natural for things to start slowly, but with hard work and dedication, student businesses can grow to be very successful.

To support these businesses:

Olivia Le’s Binghamton Thrifts can be found on Instagram as @binghamtonthrifts (

Anna Schonberg’s business can be found on Instagram as @HotBitchThrift ( for local drop offs in Binghamton and worldwide shipping and on Depop as @RetroCutie for worldwide shipping

Emma Pawlickzak’s OnwardingByEmma can be found on Etsy: and Instagram as @onwardingbyemma (

By Julia Sullivan
Julia Sullivan Marketing Graduate Assistant