Students at Montclair State University are no strangers to starting up their own businesses. While it can be difficult enough to get through the semesters for some, these students work hard in perfecting their crafts and products while studying their courses.
Zenobia Pogue, a senior animation and illustration major, knows exactly how rewarding and challenging running a business can be.
Pogue has always had a passion for illustration since she was young but began creating and selling stickers and prints of her own designs back in 2018. After posting her illustrations on her social media accounts and receiving positive feedback, she began creating more designs to sell. Just last year, Pogue decided to expand her product range and create acrylic keychains featuring her designs.
Since posting her designs, Pogue has used her social media accounts as a way to create an interactive relationship with her customers. She posts her designs along with Instagram polls to gain insight into what customers might like.
Pogue also draws inspiration for her designs from everyday life and the concepts her friends enjoy.
“Wherever I am, no matter what I’m doing, [design ideas] kind of randomly always come to me,” Pogue said. “I [might] see something or have a random idea and I write it down so I can do it later.”
Pogue’s very first sticker set, Doggos in Armor, featured different breeds of dogs in armor sets. She also created a frog collection inspired by TikTok aesthetics like cowboy and cottagecore frogs.
Students have especially enjoyed purchasing her keychains. Sabrina Duroseau, a senior animation and illustration major, has purchased stickers, keychains and prints from Pogue.
“I have to say that the cowboy frog keychain is a personal favorite,” Duroseau said. “It is so adorable and it’s a great blend of two of my favorite things: cowboys and frogs.”
After the success of her products on social media, Pogue began expanding her clientele by selling her products on Etsy, an online marketplace that focuses on handmade items and other crafts.
While she sells mostly to students and people her age, she hopes to gain more customers and in the future, use platforms like Big Cartel, which is more follower-based. Pogue aims to give her customers a personal shopping experience when they purchase any of her products.
“I get excited when I get an order,” Pogue said. “I always try to take the time to make a small doodle and a little note before I send it out. There’s a little bit of care put into it.”
Some of Pogue’s customers have gained new friendships after purchasing her products. Alicia Gaines, a Rutgers University graduate, has purchased stickers and prints from Pogue and feels that these items are an ideal conversation starter.
“Her merchandise is perfect for showing off the things that you like to others, and I feel like it’s a great way to make friends with similar interests as you,” Gaines said.
While Pogue has had some success using social media to gauge what customers would like to see, it has not always been smooth sailing using the application. Pogue has had trouble in the past with overproducing products based on the feedback given on Instagram.
“The hardest thing so far has definitely been making [an item] after doing an interest check and then [seeing that] the people don’t buy it,” Pogue said.
Despite these challenges, Pogue still enjoys giving customers this interactive experience. Since her keychain creations are fairly new and require a more intricate process to create, she is not looking to expand her product range just yet.
“I mostly produce stickers and prints because that’s what’s easiest, and I feel like you can keep them cheap enough that people will still buy them,” Pogue said. “Everybody loves to buy stickers. You can put them on your laptop, computer or your water bottle.”
Even though Pogue enjoys receiving orders for her products, her business goals don’t necessarily revolve around sales. She wants to focus on being passionate about her designs and the products she creates.
“It’s just something that I enjoy doing and if I’m able to make a sale, that’s great,” Pogue said. “It makes me super happy. I would love to be able to have a bigger shop and move to platforms like Big Cartel eventually.”
Pogue hopes to invest in creating pins and selling them on her sites and social media accounts in the near future. Students can view and purchase Pogue’s products on her Etsy site by searching Zenobiart.