Student Entrepreneurs Balance Their Clothing Businesses With Schoolwork

By Vanessa Willis, Staff Writer—

Students Aisy Nix and Cole Winton are among many young entrepreneurs at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga running clothing businesses while managing a college workload. 

Nix is a UTC sophomore and graphic design major, but she is also the owner and founder of AZ Thrift. This online thrift shop strives to turn secondhand clothing items into something new by cutting, sewing, and using acid wash on a variety of materials, including hoodies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and pillow cases. Nix is in favor of sustainability, so she sources these items from a multitude of locations. These various thrifted items are made into unique clothing that customers can purchase from her Instagram page. 

“I try to gather my materials from many different places to keep my thrifting process as ethical as possible,” Nix said. “ I typically source my materials from estate sales, thrift stores, depop, yard sales, and even my own closet.”

According to Nix, the best part of owning her own business is the ability to turn her sketches into tangible items that people can purchase. 

“Being able to actually sell my creations to people who are interested has been extraordinary,” Nix said.

Despite her passion for her craft, Nix still faces challenges while balancing the demands of being both a business owner and full time student. 

“Since my business is only run by me, I have had trouble at times balancing all the aspects that it takes to run a business,” Nix said. “It can be challenging being my own marketing director, social media manager, accountant, and curator all at the same time.” 

Cole Winton faces the same conflicts as the owner of Cool Dad, an apparel brand that sells retro inspired t-shirts and sweatshirts with the slogan “Cool Dad.” 

“Time management always is a concern,” Winton said. “Whether it’s making time to do school when I get carried away on an idea for Cool Dad, or finding the energy to work Cool Dad after a large amount of school work, it is always important to watch and plan how you spend your time.” 

Cool Dad was founded while Winton was still in high school. One night while bored at home, he and his mother decided to use her embroidery machine to personalize one of his sweatshirts. After wearing the shirt out and getting a lot of inquiries, Winton decided to turn his idea into a business.  He adapted some of his operations since transitioning to college, and has found Cool Dad to be a wonderful creative medium. 

“My favorite part of starting my own business is the connections I have made and all that I have learned along the way,” Winton said.“I love being creative, it is my outlet a lot of the time.” 

Buying from student businesses is a great way to find unique products while simultaneously supporting young entrepreneurs. For more information about the businesses featured in this article, you can find them at www.cooldadshop.com and @a.z.thrift on Instagram. 

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