ILLUSTRATION BY MIRANDA SEPULVEDA
Last semester in March when quarantine hit and Kent State closed down, many students found themselves with a sudden abundance of time. Classes moved online, everything was closed and staying home was the best way to keep others and ourselves safe. Processing quarantine was different for everyone, and people dealt with it in different ways. One way people dealt with quarantine was through creative projects. People started investing their time into creative outlets such as painting, calligraphy, baking, jewelry making, knitting and candle making, which helped relieve stress and channel their time in quarantine into something positive. Kent State students and graduates were no exception to this wave of creativity, and some turned their projects into small businesses.
Caroline Henneman graduated from Kent State in the spring of 2020 with a major in public relations and a minor in Arabic and is now at the University of Cincinnati studying law. She was in her last semester of college when quarantine hit, and she saw how much it impacted her fellow students at Kent. When quarantine first began, Henneman went to Twitter to offer fellow students rides to the grocery store if needed. “I was able to drive people around, and it was really reassuring. I was really happy that I could get something going with that, and then corona got worse,” Henneman says.
When the severity of COVID-19 became more apparent, Henneman decided that it was not safe to continue to take people to get groceries, but she still wanted to do something to help. “I was like, well, what can I do? I felt helpless and didn’t like not knowing what was going on so what I did to kind of grasp reality was to find a hobby,” Henneman says.
Henneman settled on candle making after talking to her aunt who makes sustainable soap. “I wanted to make something that was good for the planet and could be something that helps other people,” Henneman says. Henneman is committed to creating sustainable products. She uses 100% soy wax, essential oils, cotton wicks and asks that customers reuse the glass jars that the candle comes in. Henneman also checks to make sure that her suppliers are as sustainable as possible and uses sustainable packaging for her candles.
After Henneman posted her candles on social media, she started to get a more consistent wave of customers. She began receiving enough orders that she was able to donate a portion of her profits to different organizations. “I added the option of giving 5, 10 or 15% of the purchase to a nonprofit that I chose,” Henneman says. Henneman changes the nonprofit that she donates to every couple of months and has previously donated to Campaign Zero, Sierra Club and Feeding America.
Henneman uses aspects of her everyday life to inspire her candle scents and uses a lot of seasonal scents. She recently created a collection based on a cross country road trip she took this summer where she hit five natural parks, which prompted her to donate to the Sierra Club.“It’s about being inspired by the world around you and the change that can happen,” Henneman says. “That’s where my candles come from.”
Hadley Stoub, a senior fashion design major at Kent State is also turning her creative projects into a small business. Stoub was studying abroad in Florence when lockdown first started and quickly left Italy and returned to Kent. “It was like whiplash; it was all really crazy,” Stoub says. Stoub has always been into crafting, and it has helped her cope with the stress of quarantine. “It was definitely the main way that I coped. I thought if I’m going to focus on something, I want it to be positive, creative and fun,” Stoub says.
Stoub started selling her work after a design project during her junior year left her with extra shirts that she screen printed. After her shirts sold, Stoub wanted to continue creating things and selling them on Instagram. She started making clay earrings after noticing how interesting and popular they became through Instagram. “I thought, ‘How can I put my own spin on that?’ And I used what I had around me, which was clay, and started making my own earrings out of that,” Stoub says. Even though Stoub was interested in making clay earrings, she knew she wanted to incorporate her own style. “I felt if I had my own brand, I would want it to really reflect me, which is kind of grungy but also contemporary. I love a good skull, and moths have become my motif,” Stoub says. Her Instagram also features hand-painted totes and candles along with earrings.
You can follow Hadley and shop her products on Instagram at from_hadley.
Madison Brattoli is another Kent State graduate who is making a name for herself through Instagram. Brattoli graduated from Kent State in 2019 with a major in public relations and a minor in marketing. Brattoli first started making earrings out of resin when quarantine started last spring. “I just kind of needed a hobby that would motivate me to do something,” Brattoli says. She started looking through different hashtags on Instagram to get inspiration for her earrings. “I would see someone post something and think, ‘How can I make this my own?’ so I would try and take it a step further,” Brattoli says.
The abrupt amounts of free time that came with quarantine gave Brattoli the ability to focus on creating her earrings and became a positive thing to come out of a bad situation. “It was like the one thing that gave me motivation during quarantine. I had one straight thing that I could always do and feel happiness out of it,” she says.
She first posted her earrings on Snapchat and was making them for her close friends but soon realized that she could make an Instagram for her work. Soon, people she hardly even knew started asking to buy her earrings. “People saw them on Instagram and told me they would actually buy them, and that’s when I realized I could actually start making these and be more creative with them,” Brattoli says. Her Instagram features earrings, rings and barrettes.
Brattoli is going to be participating in a 10-day long giveaway before Christmas on Instagram with other local small businesses, You can follow her on Instagram at resin_the_roof.
The COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine have been stressful for many people and 2020 has been particularly rough. Creative projects have been a way for people to escape the pressures of the past year and could be acknowledged as a positive thing that has come out of quarantine.
This holiday season, it is important to shop from small businesses when possible. Many small businesses are struggling to survive during the pandemic, while larger corporations are tripling their sales. Shopping small means a lot to a small business owner and can make holiday presents particularly special.
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Hi, I’m Holly Liptak, a senior journalism student from Akron and the editor-in-chief of The Burr this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you interesting, humorous and hard-hitting stories that tap into current events, trends and the lives of those who have made a home in Kent, Ohio. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.
Grace Christopher is a second-year graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in journalism
and mass communication. Grace has her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from
Youngstown State University. This is her first semester as a staff writer for The Burr. In her free
time, she enjoys reading, watching TV and walking her goldendoodle, Belly.