UGA students create unique products as college entrepreneurs

By Mikaela Cohen, University of Georgia

The weekly schedules for Ayanna Grant, Amani Grant and Daysha Egson, mostly revolve around crocheting, which begs the question: “Why are they doing all of that crocheting?”

All three, who are juniors at the University of Georgia, launched a clothing brand, Island Gyals LLC, in Athens, Georgia, and its unique products are all crocheted and hand-made by the three owners.

Products include crocheted tops, bottoms, swimwear and customizable items upon request, which included a recent order for three custom quilts.

Grant said she had never made a quilt, but crocheting is a passion and she’s willing to tackle any type of crochet project the business throws her way. All of the owners are constantly learning as they go, especially about how much money they need to grow and sustain the business.

When they started, Grant and Egson said they didn’t have any money coming in from outside sources.

“We were funding the business ourselves and that’s really why I decided to get a job,” said Grant, a communication studies major from Stone Mountain, Georgia. She got a part-time job to help fund their business. Egson previously had a part-time job to help generate funds.

Island Gyals started with $500 at its disposal when it launched during the summer of the owners’ sophomore years in college. Grant said she thinks the minimum anyone should have is $500 when kick-starting a small business because that amount went a long way for Island Gyals.

“I had this idea my freshman year but it didn’t take off until now,” said Grant, explaining they didn’t start sooner because they weren’t quite ready for it. “You have to be dedicated when you start a business and we weren’t yet,” she said.

Egson, a biology major from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, said managing her time is important. She never wants to have to choose between her school work and the business. There is a set amount of time in her schedule and she makes time for both, she said.

“I feel like school and the business balance each other out, they’re on the same scale because you want one but you have to get the other,” said Egson. “You need your education for your business and you can’t slack off.”

Grant added, “You have to put in the hours to run a business. It’s like studying for the LSAT or something, you have to put in a certain amount of hours.”

The three owners are developing Island Gyals with the help of the University of Georgia’s Idea Accelerator Program at UGA’s Terry College of Business.

With this program’s help, the owners said they have discovered audiences they want to target with their products and they are developing plans to make their business profitable.

“No, we’re not profitable right now,” said Grant. “We have made back our initial investment so that’s good. But I do have plans to develop our business so we can be profitable 5 to 10 years down the road.”

Mikaela Cohen is a journalism major in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

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