On FAMU’s campus, student businesses are as common as J-Bird sightings — around every corner and seen all over social media. With the pandemic bestowing most people with extra time on their hands, it seems like everyone and their mother is selling something.
Jayah McCoggle and Ellen Warrick, the minds behind J&E Custom Designs, are making their revenue by literally giving people anything they want. On their Instagram page. @j.e_customs_, customers can purchase various FAMU items like hats, button downs and T-shirts. In business since about December, the two sell both their own designs and fill custom orders as well.
“I come up with the basis of the idea and Ellen is usually the one that perfects it,” McCoggle said of her business partner. “I’m not artistic like her.”
Co-owner McCoggle picked up the business from her mother, who bought them their first press machine just before the end of last year. Seeing an opportunity now in her lap and already having the skills from watching her mom for years, McCoggle grabbed her best friend and got to work. Thanks to their support and encouragement of each other, the two officially launched their business page on Instagram in January.
What began as custom tumblers and monogram rain boots blossomed to apparel, wall decor, and masks donning either their original designs or the customer’s vision brought to life. Most recently, they released custom Croc charms, or Jibbitz. Their five different pins are designed with FAMU and HBCUs in general in mind, as well as the ever-present Black Lives Matter movement. As temperatures drop, customers can expect hoodies and crewnecks to come soon. Despite COVID-19 disrupting football season, which would have presented a spike in sales for J&E Custom Designs, the duo still finds ways to give their audience products they want.
“We just gotta find that one thing,” Warrick said while describing how they constantly produce fresh and new items. “And after we find it, we gotta keep finding it.”
Besides running a business growing larger by the day, the two owners are still students first and often have to lean on each other to get all their orders filled. This semester marks McCoggle’s first semester in FAMU’s professional pharmacy program, keeping her locked in Zoom for half the day and with her nose in the books for the other half. Not to mention, Warrick runs her own additional business, doing hair when she’s not busy doing homework as a health science major. Friends of the young entrepreneurs are amazed at the constant balancing act they must do to get everything done.
“Witnessing my friends excel in school while having a thriving upcoming business is something that I admire about them,” Keyana Joseph, close friend of both McCoggle and Warrick. said. “Learning how to allocate the appropriate amount of time between studying and tending to their business is a characteristic I realize they both posses.”
If you are a student pursuing your own business venture, go for it. About 37% of adults have a side hustle, according to a study done by Bankrate. Though you may face adversity when first starting out, keep at it. Warrick warns to not expect support right off the bat, however. She and McCoggle learned this lesson first-hand as they got their brand off the ground.
“Don’t expect your closest friends to support you,” McCoggle said. “Keep grinding and the support is going to come.”