Being a student can often be tight on your purse strings and it has led to many University of Greenwich students starting their own side businesses, some born out of a need for pub pocket money, others born from passion, the money simply a bonus. You may have considered setting up your own side hustle at one point or another, but perhaps been afraid or unsure where to begin, and so, we have spoken with a number of student small business owners to find out how and why they began, and what their futures hold, beginning with InStone Design.
Kayleigh James, a third year English Literature undergraduate, started her business InStone Design, she says, “by mistake”. It began with a desire for beautiful jewellery which, whilst helping to financially support a family of four, she didn’t have the extra income to buy unnecessarily from high street stores. So, Kayleigh says, “I watched a few YouTube videos and learned how to make my own!”. Around a year after beginning her business, which at this stage mainly consisted of selling to family and friends, she set up an Etsy store to begin selling the pieces she no longer wore. This was the biggest decision she had made for her small business to date, and, pulling together around £60 (a week’s worth of food shopping for her family), the business began to expand. But, she admits, “I hadn’t done my research”, quickly finding that Etsy was saturated with makers of wire wrapped jewellery, she was forced to expand into wire-wrapped trees of life and dream catchers. Kayleigh realised she had gone “back to only selling enough to cover [her] costs”, and then Covid hit. “Sales dried up. I hadn’t sold anything for months and I was fast running out of supplies”, so something had to change. Enter stained-glass art, the integral core of InStone Design today.
During Covid, Kayleigh, like many of us, found herself in a unique position of being more time-rich than ever before, providing the perfect opportunity to expand her trade. It was her brother-in-law who first mentioned stained-glass art to her, “it resonated with me” she says, “I couldn’t stop thinking about it”, and so she began her research, eventually making the decision to take the plunge. After saving for a couple of months, Kayleigh bought a cheap grinder from eBay, second-hand tools and glass scraps, and began experimenting. She knew right away, even though she says her first pieces were “woefully rough”, that she had made the right investment, she had “found a gap in the market, and that was something that [she] found personally fulfilling”. Over the following months, especially after an influx of orders at Christmas, Kayleigh was able to upgrade and buy better quality equipment and glass, and returned to her faithful friend, YouTube, to better her craft and create more intricate designs.
As Covid restrictions began to lift, and the world found some semblance of normality, a friend of hers convinced her to book a booth at a local market. Taking along both her wire wrapped jewellery and wall-art, and stained-glass creations, this market, Kayleigh remarks, “is where InStone Design became a real business”. She has attended many market events since, some more recent ones enabling her to start selling her brilliant Christmas designs encompassing robins, candles, holly leaves, and snowmen, in addition to her very gift worthy moons, feathers, stars, air plant wallhangings, and custom designs.
So, finally, what does the future hold for InStone Design? Kayleigh responds, “my main aim for the next few years is to grow my business and travel to all of the wonderful places in the UK to attend markets”. She also has her own shop in mind, “somewhere local that will hold workshops on stained glass to teach others the wonderful craft”, and we really like the sound of that, we’re already covertly planning mate dates, hen parties, etc.
We are certainly in agreement with Kayleigh when she tells us she knows the future will be happy and bright for InStone Design.