Student Entrepreneurship During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Three Bronx Science students are devoting time to their online stores and growing their business platforms.


Houzz of Gemini

‘Houzz of Gemini,’ co-founded by Genesis Sanchez ’23, sells hair care products and other beauty goods, including lip glosses and soaps.

Many Bronx Science students have been seeking out different opportunities and hobbies to participate in during the Coronavirus pandemic. Now that New York City high schools have shifted to all remote learning for the foreseeable future, many students have more time to enjoy and to explore their interests. For some, this means spending time on their online stores. I spoke with three Bronx Science students who have either started or continued their online businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, Genesis Sanchez ’23 co-founded the cosmetics company, Houzz of Gemini. Their products are targeted for people both in and out of the Bronx Science community. “The target audience for Houzz of Gemini includes curly haired individuals and those who seek products for self-healing and are interested in self care,” said Sanchez.

Houzz of Gemini is advertised through social media and by word of mouth, which admittedly, during the Coronavirus pandemic, brings about a few issues. “The pandemic makes it difficult to do in person promotions, and so the hard work that goes into creating appealing content for our audience is crucial, along with the limited word of mouth that we are able to use in order to spread our name,” Sanchez said. However, she maintains that there is progress despite these setbacks. “Considering that the business started in quarantine,” Sanchez said, “I would say we have been making considerable progress as time goes on, and we are only expecting more! It would be easier to connect with individuals in person, but sadly, this is not the case with many events for the time being.”   

When asked about her future business plans for Houzz of Gemini, Sanchez said that the company plans to expand beyond their online platform. “For the most part, we plan on staying an online business for the near future, but we are considering offering our products in local small businesses with storefronts as well, further expanding our audience,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez continued, “If the vast majority of us were still attending school on-site, there would be a greater possibility that word about Houzz of Gemini could be spread more easily, but on a remote platform that reaches so many people, it can be difficult to reach everyone.”

Allie Chiu ’22 created ‘Alloe’s Aretes’ in order to sell fun jewelry to her peers. (Allie Chiu)

Allie Chiu ’22 started her jewelry business, Alloe’s Aretes, during the last school year. “I [originally] wanted to make jewelry for myself in order to save money, but charms come in sets of 5 or 10, and I didn’t want to keep the extras. I sold some of the extras, and people seemed to like them, so I expanded onto Instagram and created my business,” said Chiu. As her business grew in popularity, many Bronx Science students, myself included, started wearing her eccentric earrings, including but not limited to, baby charm and gummy bear earrings.

Since Chiu can no longer meet up with customers in the school lobby to sell her jewelry, Alloe’s Aretes has switched to shipping students their selected pieces. Although the Coronavirus pandemic has somewhat stunted her business, Chiu mentions that it does not bother her too much. “I’m not too mad because I was really going through it in the beginning of quarantine and truly didn’t have the energy to focus on my business. I’m thankful it’s just a hobby for me and not an important source of income,” Chiu said. After COVID-19 restrictions are eventually lifted, Chiu plans to start delivering her products in school again.

The online jewelry business ‘Pop Origins,’ co-founded by Paule Jena Silatchom ’23, aims to showcase the beauty of African culture. (Pop Origins)

Another business, Pop Origins, was co-founded by Paule Jena Silatchom ’23 and aims to deliver Afro-centric jewelry and accessories that highlight the beauty of African culture. “My sisters and I started this business to showcase beauty,” said Silatchom. “[To showcase] the way that Africa has influence stretching all the way to the Caribbean. Growing up, regarding Africa, you hear about starvation, you are taught about poverty, and you are taught to associate Africa with pity instead of adoration. Our products are made and sold for that very reason, in order to celebrate our shared African DNA and the grace that comes with it.”

Silatchom believes that the Coronavirus pandemic has allowed her to devote more time to Pop Origins. “In some ways, the pandemic has stunted the growth for our business, but it has also helped it to flourish,” Silatchom said. “Our business flourishes in a way where the time that we CEOs are devoting the energy to our business would not be possible if we still had school, work and just life to deal with, weekly. But the pandemic has harmed our business to the extent where everyone is struggling and going through something in their own way.” Silatchom plans to continue to grow Pop Origins’ platform and, like Sanchez, she plans to expand her business beyond their online stores.

For some Bronx Science students, the Coronavirus pandemic has inspired them to dabble in new activities and to create. Students like Genesis Sanchez, Allie Chiu, and Paule Jena Silatchom are certainly turning their lemons into lemonade during this difficult time.

If the vast majority of us were still attending school on-site, there would be a greater possibility that word about Houzz of Gemini could be spread more easily, but on a remote platform that reaches so many people, it can be difficult to reach everyone,” said Genesis Sanchez ’23.