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Student-run businesses create alternative campus jobs

Informal services like manicures, haircuts spread through word of mouth to busy students

When most students begin the search for on-campus jobs, they head to the libraries or dining halls. But some select students follow their entrepreneurial spirit, juggling small businesses and full courseloads. By setting up service-based businesses, students can work according to their own schedule while pursuing their own interests.

Student beautician Roxanne Alaghband ’15 opened her own nail business, Funky Phalanges, during her first year and has offered manicures, pedicures and massages to fellow students ever since.

“I went to beauty school before I came to college, and I wanted to do something with it, so I figured ‘Why not?’” she said.

Launching her own business has allowed Alaghband to make money without having to disrupt her busy schedule. “I’m an athlete, so I don’t have time to work full time,” she said. “This is a way to make money and still do athletics.”

Alaghband charges $12 for a manicure, $20 for a pedicure and $10 for a half-hour massage — all relatively competitive prices compared to rates at established salons on College Hill. Facing Thayer, the street’s only nail salon, charges $25 for a manicure and $45 for a pedicure, according to the salon’s website.

Alaghband said this year she plans to donate all of the money she makes from the business to help fund the medical school education of a fellow Brown undergraduate.

Making money was less on the mind of Ardra Hren ’15 when she launched her own hair cutting service during her first year at Brown. Hren said she started the business when she noticed many of her friends did not know where to go or what to do with their hair while away at college. Though Hren didn’t charge for the cuts initially, students often offered to pay her or buy her food in exchange, she said. Overwhelmed by the on-campus demand, Hren eventually began charging her clients.

Rosa Sierra ’17 said her hair and makeup services require less time and money than salon alternatives. Sierra started doing hair and makeup for fashion shows as a part of Fashion at Brown but later decided to offer her services to other members of the Brown community.

“I would charge $5 for hair and $5 for makeup because it doesn’t take much time,” she said, adding that she often did her own hair and friends’ hair for events in high school. She said she hopes to be able to offer her services to sororities and students who attend formals and events.

Student-run services offer a more relaxed environment for students who find that off-campus services can be unfriendly or intimidating, Alaghband said. This may be especially true in the case of first-year students who are unfamiliar with local businesses.

Students are often more comfortable and open when dealing with another student than they would be with a professional, Sierra said. “When you know the person that’s doing your hair, I think there’s a higher level of comfort and you can ask them to change something, whereas when you go to a salon you’re kind of shy,” she said. Because people are frequently too afraid to be outspoken to a stylist in a salon, they walk away disappointed with the outcome, she added.

Alaghband said repeat clients constitute a bulk of her customer base. “It’s nice because it’s a good way to meet people and chat for an hour,” Alaghband said, adding that she has formed close friendships with some of the people that have come to her for manicures.

Convenience can also play a big role in students’ decisions to turn to their classmates for services, said Alaghband. “I’m totally happy to give a manicure at night” she said. “Sometimes I’ll get a text at 9 p.m. asking if (someone) can come in for a massage or manicure at 10, which you normally can’t do at other salons.”

While some student businesses like Funky Phalanges choose to advertise with flyers posted around campus, other services have gained their client bases through word-of-mouth recommendations.

“It’s nice that another student is doing this for people on campus. It’s more personal and it’s more one-on-one time,” said Mira Kaufman ’15, a customer at Funky Phalanges. The experience is different from that of going to a professional off-campus salon, because it is more like “talking to another student or friend,” she added.

Alaghband said the demand for her service increases each year around midterms and finals week as students seek out ways to de-stress.

Working at BUDS or in the library can sometimes be rather passive, Alaghband said. “This gives me the chance to meet and interact with different people and have fun at the same time,” Alaghband said.


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