YSU Students Start Their Own Business Amid Pandemic

Kristen Graul, a YSU student working toward her master's degree in social work, started Victorious Sweets with her long-time friend, Victoria Duckworth, last fall. Photo courtesy of Kristen Graul

By Emily McCarthy

The past year has been a unique one for many students at Youngstown State University. For many students, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of change, in both school and work environments, but for some students, the change included starting a business.

Taylor Javey, an exercise science major, started her business, 1011 Fabrics, last October. She began her business  Oct. 11, 2020. The business consists of an online female boutique which includes affordable apparel in northeast Ohio, offering both shipping and local delivery services.

“1011 Fabrics is an online clothing boutique for women created to help me pay for graduate school and meet my lifelong dreams.” she said. “I was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, on October 11 (aka 10-11) which is how I came up with the name for my company 1011 Fabrics. [I am] currently attending Youngstown State University, as a first generation college student…I aspire to be an Athletic Trainer for the NBA.”

Javey is not the only YSU student who began a business last fall. 

Kristen Graul, a YSU student working toward her master’s degree in social work, started
Victorious Sweets with her long-time friend, Victoria Duckworth, last fall. The business offers a variety of sweets and baked goods like chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate-covered pineapple, cakesicles, cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and more. 

“[Victoria] went to a creative arts school in Cleveland for her high school, so she’s just super creative and we just love color. We just want to make people happy, like when they open their boxes of sweets,” she said. “We want them to love what they are getting … We are all about presentation.”

Setting this business aside from others serving sweets, each box ordered is uniquely decorated with a variety of colors and themes based on the customers interests. According to Graul, the feedback was much better than they anticipated, especially during the holidays.

“We always wanted to have our own business, so we decided one day we’re going to try and see if it goes anywhere because we wanted to build our customers and clientele before taking the big jump and opening our own place,” Graul said. “We didn’t expect it to go so good, so we were like ‘wow’ … this really confirms that we can make it in the business industry.”

Santajah Douglass, a freshman psychology major, co-owns Stayce Artistic Treats with YSU alumna Stayce Blackston. Douglass is the eldest daughter of Blackston, and together they found enjoyment in opening a business. The business opened in January and sells one of a kind boxes, picture frames, masks and pouches. Each product is unique and includes treats with it. 

“It was self-healing through art … [the products] are all pre-made by the artists. We would like to express our point of view through art. They are original designs — never duplicates,” she said. “Just like us, people are inspired by something new everyday, so why not inspire our customers … it can be that one product that makes your whole day.”

Douglass is in charge of the marketing and primarily does advertising for the business, and while they brainstorm ideas together, Blackston is the main artist. Douglass said Blackston is a very talented person and she takes pride in the family partnership, which she said she believes is the best kind of business.