• Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Small business, big heart

ByCraig Buchan

Feb 11, 2021

Valentine’s Day, a blooming business opportunity for university students

The year is 2021. Romance is dead. We are all locked in our homes. And the country’s professional artists have all launched their new careers in ‘cyber’.

But despite the continuing pandemic carnage there are two local artists who have teamed up to try and get their side project profitable.

Australian Molly Keenan and Laura Garruda, from Spain, are two Edinburgh College students trying to get their customised Valentine’s Day art business off the ground. They spoke to The Student.

“We are both studying Art and Design at college, which has all been online, so it’s been kind of a struggle,” Keenan said.

“It’s very different to what we expected. We just kind of connected straight away and then we kind of came up with the idea to collaborate. It was Laura’s idea to be honest.”

The pair are selling personalised names and map artwork ranging from £4 to £8, and couples portraits ranging from £15 to £20.
As for why they picked Valentine’s Day, Garruda said: “I was thinking maybe it was a really good opportunity to get people interested about art.

“We as artists can do custom or personalised products for a client, so maybe it’s a good opportunity because couples or friends want a special present for that day.”

With both in the first year of their course, the duo has only met in person once. Molly said: “We met before the lockdown. We met in a café one time but ever since then we haven’t been able to meet up again. Just video chats and stuff.”

Despite this, they both see the partnership continuing beyond Valentine’s.

“We haven’t actually talked about that, but I would love to go on and do Mother’s Day things and birthday things and offer more throughout the year for different occasions. I would love to do that, I think we work as a great team.”

Garruda added: “We love to collaborate with each other so maybe we can keep doing things together as we keep doing things individually.

“I think this is a way to promote ourselves together and individually as well.”

As well as keeping them apart, the pandemic has changed the way they market their work, as Garruda explains.

“It’s very difficult nowadays, with the Covid situation especially, because people cannot see the product in person. I think you have to be very careful with marketing skills and the way you present your work online.

“Sometimes [it is a struggle], but if you present your work with a good appearance and you are very active on social media, you keep going, and you put a lot of effort in, you can be successful in that way.”

Keenan added: “You definitely have to be patient and persistent. If you are not going to have someone interested or replying straight away, that is fine. You just keep going and keep promoting because it’s going to happen.”

Having a side hustle and sitting a college course is a lot to manage, but Keenan and Garruda have managed to find a balance.

“To be honest I love drawing so it doesn’t really feel like work. It’s still stressful having a lot to do but I love doing it. It’s a completely personal project we are working on but we have support from our teacher Debbie who we spoke to yesterday. She is thrilled, she’s very excited for us and it’s a good opportunity for us.”

What this small startup shows is that there is still a chance for small and independent creators to thrive, despite the pandemic and the strength of bigger competitors.

“It’s so much nicer to receive a gift that’s completely personal and I think because there is so much commercial and mass-produced things these days its just nice to also support small businesses who are trying to get their name out there.

“I’m quite a sentimental person and I like receiving and giving gifts that are more personal, which you can’t really get in mass-produced items.”

“Everybody wants to be original,” Garrudo added. “Everything is already seen. Everything is already done. Maybe you are looking to be more original. We are not from here, but we have discovered that here people support local businesses more than in other places.”

To place an order, message @artinmustard or @_mollysmind on Instagram.

Images: via Molly Keenan and Laura Garruda