For so many camps, today is the day. Whether you are on the bus, a counselor waiting for the campers to arrive, or just longing for those days when you lived ten months for two, our interview with the incredibly talented Devon Rushton is the perfect read:
How did you start your business?
My business ultimately started last summer when I searched the internet for a “GW” and an “AEPhi” sticker for my laptop. I had a certain idea in my head of what I wanted them to look like, but, unfortunately, didn’t find anything that resembled what I was going for. Disappointed with the small choice of options, I thought about how cool it would be to have stickers on my laptop that I designed myself. I was already pretty familiar with Photoshop and, like I said, I could envision in my head what I wanted my stickers to look like, but just didn’t know of a way to physically make these stickers. It was then that I did some research and stumbled upon a website that allowed me to do so. The cool thing about the website I used to produce the stickers was that not only could I order my artwork in sticker form, but anyone in the world who looked on the website was also allowed to purchase them as well. I began making stickers for specific camps, colleges, and was even taking custom requests. After about 6 months of designing stickers and about 10,000 stickers sold, I realized that maybe my designs actually had some potential to expand beyond stickers. It was from there that I decided to research some other products I could make. I then decided to put my work on pillows, zip pouches, leggings, phone cases, and mugs.
I then created an Instagram for my designs (@DevonsDesigns) where I posted photos of the products I was creating to showcase my designs and products. I followed a bunch of people, hoping people would follow me back and check my stuff out, and before I knew it, I had an email in my inbox saying, “Do you sell wholesale?” It was then that I opened Google and typed in “What is wholesale?” It’s so funny to think about now especially because wholesale has become such a prominent part of my business, but at the time, I seriously had no idea what the term meant. It was just something I, as a then 19-year-old, had never even thought about. It was from there, that my business was developed.
You are a busy college student at a top university and a designer of products like tattoos, stickers, and pouches. How do you do it all?
Without hesitation, I must admit it is not easy. Prioritizing schoolwork, a social life, and getting enough sleep for any college student is difficult to begin with, and adding running a business to that mix does not make it any easier.
About a month and a half ago, in early May, I was sitting in my dorm room trying to brainstorm what my next product would be. I loved designing leggings and pillows–and still do–but there were already a ton of people in the market doing something similar to me. I knew that if I wanted to expand, I needed a product to set me aside from everyone else. It was then that I looked around my room and my eyes landed on a picture of a friend of mine and I from a weekend that I had visited her at Penn State. We both had a little Nittany Lion temporary tattoo on our cheeks. It was then that it hit me,“Yeah temporary tattoos already exist…but how cool would it be to design creative temporary tattoos for specific camp and colleges?”
After doing some research and mocking up designs, I posted my first proof of a temporary tattoo sheet onto my Instagram, and the response was amazing. A half hour later, I had about 25 emails and direct messages asking me how these tattoos could be purchased and if I could make a sheet for “So and So Camp” or “So and So College.” I have to admit, I was thrilled, but like I said, it was early May. Early May also means college final exams. So point of that story is, at the time when I introduced the tattoo sheets it just so happened to be smack in the middle of me studying for finals. As if I wasn’t overwhelmed enough for all my finals, I now had tons of tattoo orders to fulfill. I knew I brought this upon myself, but it was during this time that I was truly being tested to see if being a full-time college student and running a business at the same time was going to be something I would be able to pull off. It was during those few days that I learned what it means to prioritize.
Although it was difficult, I managed to do it. I studied for my finals and I got the tattoo orders fulfilled. With that being said, I think it is my passion, determination, and dedication to my business that helps me do it all. Of course, it is difficult to balance doing well in school as well as running a business, but it is by no means impossible. I have always been a very hard-working and “don’t give up until you get what you want” type of person. I really do strongly believe that if you are determined enough for anything, you will always pull it off, no matter what.
There are definitely nights where I have to choose working on my business over hanging out with my friends or going to parties or whatever, but that is something I have learned to accept if I want to continue to grow my business. But, there are also so many nights where my friends will come over and help me package my tattoo sheets, help me take pictures/model my products for me, or even just keep me company while I’m working. So I have to admit, I am lucky to have such amazing friends who support me while I am doing what I love and achieving my dreams.
Lastly, I would not be able to answer this question without giving so so so much credit to my mom. That woman is seriously a superhero. Whether it be typing up my invoices, answering emails for me, running to the post office for me, or just making me a cup of coffee when I’m up till 2 a.m. finishing an order, she has been nothing but helpful and supportive through this entire journey. I owe it all to her, and I know how lucky I am to have someone like her helping me.
What is the most challenging part of being a young entrepreneur?
I would say the most challenging part of being a young entrepreneur is that I find myself in situations where I am learning as I go along. Similar to the not knowing what wholesale meant, I’ve had to learn how to do things that a business owner performs every day. I’ve had to quickly learn how to speak with new clients, negotiate prices and even something as simple as creating an invoice. The plus side of this though is that I am gaining so much experience and learning so much about the business world that other people my age may not have experienced yet. Plus, as I am in the business school at GW, the experience is definitely helping me in my classes.
What are your plans for your business? Are you growing?
My plans for my business are definitely to grow. Every day I receive more emails from more potential clients and every day I am working on new designs. I recently have been working with two large retail stores who will be selling my products very shortly so I am extremely excited about that. Additionally, I am going to begin doing trunk shows with different stores to expand the audience of my products. I am also coming up with many new designs and product ideas for the fall.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? Are there any classes that really helped you?
Do what you love. My business started out as a hobby and a passion for art and digital media. There is not a single product I work on that I do not enjoy working on. Additionally, in today’s day and age, there is so much potential to share and spread your ideas with the world. I think it is so amazing how many girls my age there are doing similar things as me and running their own businesses. With social media, especially Instagram, there are so many different ways to reach different audiences, and I think that is so amazing. Instagram has served as such a great platform for me to show my designs and products to everyone and without it, I really don’t think my business would be growing as much as it is. People constantly knock my generation’s relationship with social media and technology, but I think a lot of those people fail to realize the positive side of that relationship and how amazing it is that so many people are using these tools to run a business, spread their ideas, or simply help them to do what they love.
Yes, there are definitely classes that have helped me. Toward the beginning of my senior year of high school, I pretty much solidified to myself that I wanted to major in some sort of business. I don’t know how I came to the conclusion, but it pretty much just felt right for me. So going into GW, I was declared a “Business Undecided” major. I kept this title through my freshman year and the first half of my sophomore year. I had constantly gone back and forth between wanting to major in marketing and wanting to major in accounting. It was spring of my sophomore year that I made my final decision. I was taking my first marketing class, and I absolutely loved it. I had never in my life felt more excited about having to go to a class twice a week at 9:30 a.m. so this was a big deal for me. At the time, my business was pretty much just developing, so it was so exciting for me to walk out of class every day knowing that I just learned something that would help me grow my business. One day toward the end of the semester, I walked into class, and I see on the board a slide show titled “Wholesale.” I could not help but laugh to myself. Luckily, this time, I knew what the word meant! A few weeks later, a few days before an exam, I met with my professor to go over some information for the test when he asked me what my major was. I told him, “I’m still deciding between marketing and accounting.” He replied back to me, “You have way too much personality to be an accounting major.” It was the following day that I declared myself a marketing major and haven’t looked back since. I would definitely recommend my major to anyone else aspiring to run their own business.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
I get the inspiration for my designs all over. Seriously, so many things in my life inspire me and get my mind flowing with ideas. Whether it be scrolling through Instagram, seeing what my friends are wearing, walking down the street in Philadelphia, or flipping through a magazine, I’m constantly being inspired by various things.
Whether it’s camp, college, the beach or that inspires you, be sure to check out @devonsdesigns. She’s got you covered!