Self-Done and Self-Run: Young, local entrepreneurs and their art-based businesses!

Many young art entrepreneurs in the local area have been channelling their artistic passions to create unique products and run their own small businesses.

Custom Painted Tumblers by Kylie Schlottman

Photo Credit: Kylie Schlottman

In the summer of 2019, Kylie Schlottman of East Haven, CT, began painting tumblers merely as a hobby to pass time. However, after posting pictures on social media of cups she made for her family and friends, Kylie had tons of people messaging her with interest in buying! Kylie then decided to make her own Instagram account, where she displays and sells personalized plastic and stainless steel tumblers. Kylie takes orders through text messages and direct messages on Instagram. Kylie finds her main clients to be local, but the farthest order she has ever shipped was to Iowa. “My favorite part would have to be that I get to be super creative with a lot of my orders,” Kylie explains. “This allows me to have fun with what I am doing and makes this more of a hobby than a little side job.” Check out @kups_by_ky on Instagram to see Kylie’s work.

Hand Painted Shoes by Grace Waldron

Photo Credit: Grace Waldron

Grace Waldron, a high school student from Wallingford, CT, runs her own, state-registered sole-proprietor business, in which she custom paints Slip-On Vans, though she has also sold items like water bottles and wallets. She began making and selling her products two years ago after creating a pair for her friend’s birthday. After that, she became inundated with requests to paint more! Grace sells her products and takes orders via instagram. She has been very successful with the amount of products that she has sold; Grace usually finds herself in contact with more local buyers than nonlocal, though she has been contacted by people around the world who have been interested in buying. To see more of Grace’s work, visit her Instagram account

Portrait Photography by Jillian Garrett

Photo Credit: Jillian Garrett

In March of 2019, Jillian Garrett, a teen from North Branford, CT, turned her childhood dream into a reality by beginning her own photography business. “I began my business because it’s always been my dream and I’ve loved photography since I was 7! My family and friends kept telling me how talented I am, so I decided to give it a shot!” she says. Jillian mainly specializes in portrait photography, but she features travel photography as well. She puts in a great deal of time and effort to run her business. She shares that, in total, one photoshoot takes around 6 hours to fully complete, which includes the shoot itself, the importation of photos, the client consultation, and, most time-consuming of all, the editing Check out Jillian’s Instagram @jilliansphotogallery.

Young entrepreneurship is becoming more common amongst younger generations, especially given the amount of free time allotted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Entrepreneurship allows young people to use and display their passions, and profit from them in the process. Jillian advises others to “just do it![...]Personally, I’ve been a young entrepreneur since I was probably 8! I used to sell crafts at art fairs, run a lemonade stand every summer, make and sell bookmarks, etc! I think young entrepreneurship is a great opportunity for young people to gain experience and be exposed to what goes into running a business!”

All of these young, local, art entrepreneurs have used social media as a platform to display their work and attract new clients.“Social media is definitely a huge contributor to why I’ve been so successful,” says Grace. Many of her products have been posted on other Instagram accounts with thousands of followers, and some of her shoes have even gone viral on VSCO and still get republished today. Social media can be a helpful tool for all small businesses alike. “Social media [...] allows them [small businesses] to get their name out there. Just about everyone is on social media nowadays, so that is an easy form of communication and a way to reach a lot of people easily,” Kylie shares. Kylie has also utilized hashtags on her social media posts because she feels that doing so allows her to reach a wider audience on her social media platforms.

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has been a blessing in disguise for these young entrepreneurs! Grace expressed that she actually felt fortunate to have this available time in quarantine. Since she had her biggest order of twelve pairs of painted sneakers due early May for a wedding, Grace did not think she would have been able to finish them with school and sports had quarantine not occurred. Although Jillian found some difficulty in operating her business during quarantine, she was able to find light in this situation and use her talent to create other products! “With the COVID-19 pandemic, my photography business has unfortunately been put on hold. I can’t have photoshoots anymore and the only people I can take pictures of is my family[...]Although, I did start another small side business during the pandemic to make up for photography being stopped. Now, I am creating digital art drawings on my iPad and that has really taken off during quarantine!” It is important for people to remain optimistic during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially small businesses. These young women have used their quarantine time to the fullest and have reaped great benefits in doing so.

Young entrepreneurship is growing in popularity as time goes on. These three local art entrepreneurs have shown that using their inner passions and running their own businesses can be both entertaining and profitable.