For Lindy Goodson and Liz Lanford, a fun craft for their sorority — sunglasses decorated with colored beads — has turned into a popular business. Together, the two founded Fraze Shades, where customers can purchase sunglasses customized for any event.
Like Goodson and Lanford, more students are finding ways to make money while in college, and some women at Ole Miss are taking their creative ideas and turning them into successful businesses.
Goodson and Lanford, both senior integrated marketing communications students, decorate all of their products by hand and sell them on their website, frazeshades.com, for $15-22.
“We were both IMC majors and didn’t know anything about business,” Goodson said. “It started as an accident that spiraled out of control, in a good way though.”
Fraze has grown an Instagram following of almost 5,000 users, and Goodson’s YouTube channel, where she occasionally talks about her company, has almost 14,000 subscribers. Goodson and Lanford both use their personal social media to market their products.
In 2018, the duo won third place in the annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition. The winner of the competition is awarded a rent-free year of office space at the university’s Insight Park Innovation Hub.
When the first and second-place winners didn’t use the space, Fraze was able to operate out of the office for the next year.
“At the beginning of junior year, we both lived in (our sorority house), so we were just making them out of my room,” Goodson said. “The second-place winners had graduated, so then we got the office space.”
Ashley Mills, a senior journalism student, manages Miracle Thrift, an online business run through Instagram where Mills resells clothes she has bought at secondhand shops or thrift stores. Customers bid on clothing they want to purchase and Mills ships or delivers the items.
“I have always loved thrifting clothes,” Mills said. “So I thought it would be a great idea to share my love of thrifting with others and make a business out of it.”
Mills said that she has profited almost $5,000, and she has donated about half of that to philanthropic organizations.
Paige Bell, a sophomore integrated marketing communications student, owns a sunless tanning business called Oxford Glow, where she provides spray tans to customers while also educating them on the dangers of tanning beds.
“I wanted to raise awareness for skin cancer and also do sunless tanning because it does help prevent it,” Bell said. She said she got her inspiration from a woman in her hometown who ran the same type of business with a similar platform.
Bell invested almost $2,000 into her business to pay for training and equipment and believes she is close to breaking even. She uses a pop-up mobile tent so she can take her business with her.
“I have ambassadors in almost every sorority,” Bell said, that help her market her services. She said she offers discounts for groups and during busy times of the year.
Bell said she struggles to balance schoolwork and her business. She said she sets herself a deadline to stop working and focus on schoolwork.
“I’m a really hard worker and determined, so it’s hard for me to cut myself off,” Bell said.
Goodson said that Fraze’s youthful image can make it hard to be taken seriously in competitions.
“(Our biggest challenge) in the very beginning, was trying to figure out the ins and the outs of actually having a business and then also having people actually take us seriously,” Goodson said.
Though Goodson is not the only female entrepreneur who wants to be unique, she could face problems being recognized along the way. Forbes has received criticism after its recent “America’s Most Innovative Leaders” list included 99 men and only one woman.
Goodson said her target audience is sorority women, so she struggled with finding a balance between marketing well to her consumers while still earning respect from mentors and judges.
“I don’t want to be boring,” Goodson said. “I don’t want to compromise who we are to try to stand out and be professional like the men.”
Mills said that one of the most important parts about starting your own business is to find a way to be unique.
“I’m always encouraging to girls who want to make a business for themselves and try to help in whatever ways I can,” Mills said. “I just encourage them to make sure they have an edge to their business and find ways to stand out.”
Goodson said that young women should ignore the perception that owning your own business is unattainable.
“I hope this can inspire people,” Goodson said. “Everybody thinks you can’t. Turns out you can.”