COVID-19 hit hard for millions of people around the world, including college students. Most universities sent their students home where many of us spent the rest of the semester and all of the summer watching Netflix, making Tik Toks, walking around the neighborhood, or just staying in the house bored. However, student entrepreneur Joanna Georges decided to make the most of being in quarantine and started her own business.
Meet Joanna Georges, a sophomore at Kent State University double majoring in fashion merchandising and entrepreneurship and owner of the New Jersey-based fashion business, Ciety Boutique. A Mag sat down with Georges to learn more about her business and what it’s like being a student entrepreneur.
So tell us a little bit about you, what brought you to Kent State?
The Fashion School honestly brought me to Kent. The program is amazing and when I was looking at colleges, having a normal college experience was very important to me. I also knew that I would be able to add entrepreneurship as my second major and still be able to graduate in four years because of all the college credit I got in high school. A major bonus was that everyone was very welcoming the first time I came to visit, so I just knew that Kent was home.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I have always wanted to start my own business. Being an entrepreneur and my own boss has been my dream since I was like 13. This past summer, I decided to make something positive out of being in quarantine. In the beginning, I was very depressed, not eating or sleeping; however, starting my business really changed that for me and gave me purpose again. I saw so many of my peers starting their own businesses during these past months and I knew that I had the tools to start my own business. So I stopped hesitating and waiting for the right moment and just did it.
How would you describe your brand?
I believe that my brand challenges societal norms and encourages everyone to find their own style outside of the fashion rules. Ciety Boutique is all about redefining your life and style. Fashion is a personal art form and a young adult’s voice is most powerful when they feel confident in what they wear. I truly live by looking good to feel good and Ciety Boutique follows that same philosophy.
Are there any people in the industry or fashion brands that you look up to?
One of my favorite fashion icons right now is Ryan Destiny. She is really showing the world that darkskin women can be pretty and feminine. Her style sense is just amazing and I wish when I was growing up that there were more fashion icons who looked like me and were proud of their skin. I also really love Rihanna, the inclusivity that she is forcing the beauty and fashion industry to have is amazing. I love that she caters to everyone because everyone deserves a chance at looking and feeling beautiful.
What are some of the main products your business sells?
I currently have a sunglasses collection labeled “Ciety,” featuring six different colored unisex sunglasses. I (dropped) my Zodiac Collection Labor Day weekend, which includes anklets, bracelets, necklaces, and barrettes. In the future, I would like to branch out into bigger accessories, such as purses, and maybe one day start selling clothes.
What has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
The most challenging part of being an entrepreneur is having to do everything yourself. From legalizing my business to product selection to product shots to maintaining my website to shipping out orders, I do everything myself. I definitely do have people who support me that I can lean on, but Ciety Boutique is all mine. When I don’t put enough time and effort into it, I notice that in my sales and my social media reach. I am the only one who can make sure it succeeds or fails.
What has been the best part of being an entrepreneur?
The best part of being an entrepreneur is seeing my customers wear and enjoy my products. The simple thought of knowing that I put some good into the world and having people who appreciate that good really makes me happy. Honestly, I forget that I am an entrepreneur with my own business because everything feels surreal. Then a customer directly messages me with their picture with my product and I know that I’m not dreaming.
Have you found it hard to balance being a student and an entrepreneur?
It is definitely hard being a student and entrepreneur. I am so involved in school with taking 17 credits this semester, having two eboard positions and looking into an on-campus job. Education is very important to me and I always strive to do well. It’s hard because all I want to do is invest all of my free time in my business — planning out new collections and creating sales goals. I have had to tell myself that school comes first and my business is simply my second priority.
In what ways have you seen your business grow? What lessons have you learned from starting your business?
I have seen my business grow by the amount of shares and reposts on social media by my customers or simply people who believe in my brand. I have learned that if I don’t take the time and effort to market my business as often as daily, then I will never grow. As a small business, I rely heavily on marketing and word of mouth. In the few weeks where I had to stop my marketing to prepare for back to school, I saw how much potential growth that I lost.
What would be your long term goal for your brand?
My long term goal for Ciety Boutique is to increase my overall brand awareness. The money isn’t really important to me because every little thing I earn I invest right back into my business. I want everyone to know what Ciety Boutique values and how we aim to make our customers living examples of our values. My website states it best: “By dropping the ‘so’ in society, we aim to redefine how we view the world and ourselves. Our purpose is to empower young adults to create their own path through their style. Fashion is a form of self-expression that builds confidence and we aim to help our customers achieve that with our products.”
Do you have any advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, I say to just start your business. We’re young, so it’s OK to fail or for it to not be successful when you start. I certainly don’t think my business is really successful yet. Do some research on the type of business you would like to start and just do it. There really is no time like the present.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to add that I don’t know everything there is to know about entrepreneurship. That’s why it is one of my majors for school. I am constantly expanding my knowledge by reading articles and watching YouTube videos on entrepreneurship and owning a small business.
You can find Ciety Boutique products on the website, where the new Zodiac Collection is now available.