Student entrepreneurs share their skills, services


Rob Le Cates

Shavon Edmond, a sophomore sociology major, helps out a customer at the Back to Business: Small Business Expo Saturday afternoon at 7th Street Underground. Edmond started her business earlier in the summer. Edmond said she just started meddling with things and just got interested in seeing inspiration on apps like Tik Tok. “I started to just make it on my own, and like just branched off from there.”

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Associate News Editor

Eastern’s 7th Street Underground temporarily became a space for small business owners at Eastern to gather, showing the community their talents and the services they provide Saturday afternoon.

The small business exposition was hosted by NAACP and EIU Entrepreneurship Club and included student entrepreneurs that did anything from sell jewelry to work on custom fashion designs.

Aaliyah James, a junior business management major, is the president of NAACP. She said she wanted to host this event to help the community learn more about the small businesses on campus.

“I feel like there’s a lot of small businesses out there that not many people know about or that can get the credit, the platform that they need to get on campus in order to get those clients,” James said. “So having this event, I just want people to be able to see that we have so many amazing people with such great talents and businesses here on campus.”

James also used the event as an opportunity to let people know about her own small business, Liyah’s Nail Lab.

“I started doing my own nails in high school, and I just kind of grew from there, and finally, last year, I started doing nails on campus,” James said. “Doing nails has definitely helped me step into actually what I want to do in life, because it kind of changed my whole course.”

James said that she did not think doing nails was something she wanted to pursue, but starting her own small business helped her realize she wants to own her own salon.

“It kind of helped me push and figure out exactly what I wanted to do in life,” James said.

One of the student entrepreneurs at the small business exposition was Alexis Gonzalez, a sophomore business analytics and information systems major.

Gonzalez does eyelash extensions, something she has been doing since she took classes to get trained on eyelash extensions and started her business out of her dorm room in February 2021.

She offers a variety of eyelash extension options and even makes fan lashes, several lash extensions joined together at the base, by hand.

“Any length, any size you want, I can custom make your set for you,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said that it took a long time to see improvements when she started learning to do eyelash extensions.

“I started noticing improvements within a few months, and once I started noticing my improvements, I was like, ‘Okay, I got it,’ but then months later, I look back and I’m like ‘Wow, I keep improving,’” Gonzalez said. “It definitely takes lots of time, practice, and every client has different eyes. That’s why it definitely took a lot of time to get used to it and adjust to everyone’s different eye shape and type of lash they have.”

She said that starting your own business can be scary at first, but that it is worth it.

“It takes time, patience and a lot of hard work, but I definitely encourage you because it’s benefitted me in so many ways,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve met so many new people. I’ve learned so many new things about myself as well.”

Jarshea Williams, a sophomore psychology major, attended the small business exposition to show the community her fashion designs. She provides a variety of services, from putting custom prints on clothing to bedazzling clothes.

Though Williams started her small business recently, she started getting interested in fashion design at 11 years old, when her love for clothes began. She said she stopped working on fashion design for a while but decided to do so again because it was something she really wanted to do.

“It was a thought that came to my mind like ‘Maybe I should just express my talent more,’” Williams said. “I mean, I’ve been doing it, so I thought more people would want to see what I can do.”

The small business exposition also featured Shavon Edmond, a sophomore sociology major. She is an entrepreneur who makes and sells jewelry such as hair jewelry, rings, ear cuffs and nose cuffs.

Edmond started her business in the summer, when she saw people on Tik Tok making and wearing nose cuffs. She started by making her own nose cuffs then branched off and made other types of jewelry.

She said making jewelry helps her express herself creatively, and that the process of making jewelry can be stress relieving.

Edmond also said she appreciates all the support she has gotten on her small business since she first started thinking about starting it. She said that having the right support and network can help those starting small businesses succeed.

“Especially on campus, a lot of people are interested in my products,” Edmond said. “A lot of people, they like to support me and stuff. That’s real good to me. I just started out a couple months ago and just getting the support and love for it is real good.”

India Rials, a freshman business major, provides a variety of services which she showcased at the exposition. She is a hairstylist, make-up artist and press-on nail supplier.

Though Rials started her business a month ago, she has been doing hair and make up for the majority of her life. As a creative person, Rials said she has always loved doing hair and make up.

“I just kind of like seeing other people’s reactions when I’m done,” Rials said. “Just seeing them go from zero to a 100 and feeling themselves kind of just makes me feel better knowing that someone else feels better.”

James said that she hopes more people will support more small businesses and more Black businesses.

“I think a lot of the time, people look at smaller businesses like they’re not good enough or they don’t have good products, and that’s completely opposite from the truth,” James said. “I feel like small businesses, they care a lot, whereas maybe big corporations, they’re really just eating your money. I think it’s really important to support small than support big.”


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]