This article is published with permission to showcase young student journalism.
WAYNE, NJ - Two young entrepreneurs, Caterina Lepore and Baran Onuk are running their successful businesses amidst the uncertainty of their senior year.
Lepore runs her college apparel business, TrendyLockerRoom, via Instagram and currently has over 900 followers. Though she specializes in custom-made college apparel, she also creates clothing for sports and jobs.
Onuk sells video games. He makes the games to sell to kids and not only does he make money from kids buying the games, but they also buy things advertised in the game which allows him to earn more money.
Lepore’s clothing career started with quarantine in March.
“I spent a lot of my time making digital art and designs,” Lepore says. “The start of my business truly started when I was trying to find my cousin a cool graduation gift.” While Lepore was looking for college apparel, she decided it would be more beneficial to make her own. She made a shirt and posted it on her Instagram account. After a couple of days, she got a lot of attention from people wanting their own custom-made apparel. “From there, I created the name TrendyLockerRoom and made an Instagram dedicated strictly to my business.”
Onuk was inspired to start his business due to his childhood.
“When I was younger, I would play games with my friends online,” Onuk says. “As I grew up, I learned the potential in these games and the money that was to be made in them. My primary inspiration was the monetary benefits involved in making them, as well as the ability to express my creativity.”
Lepore claims the toughest thing about running her business is finding enough time. “In the spring and summer, it was something great to keep me busy,” Lepore says. Since Lepore has two jobs, partakes in multiple clubs, and plays sports, it is hard for her to work on her business as much as she would like. However, she loves every second of working when she finds the time.
Onuk believes that the toughest thing for him was learning how to program. He states, “I essentially learned how to do it without any sort of program. There were times where I wanted to give up and assume it wasn’t something that I would be able to do.” Despite how hard it was to learn to program, Onuk persevered and eventually was able to create his games and make a business out of them.
Both Onuk and Lepore plan on keeping their businesses running in the future, though they do not plan on having it be their main focus. Lepore says that “things may have to change when I go to college, but I plan on continuing to grow my business no matter the circumstance because I love what I do.”
One of Lepore’s favorite part of running a business is “seeing happy customers.” She says, “Any type of customer happiness is the best part because it makes me feel good about my work.” Onuk also loves his business. He expresses that not only is he independent and able to do things on his own, but his business pays more than most high school jobs. However, he doesn’t just do it for the money, Onuk truly enjoys creating games.
With trends constantly changing, it is challenging to keep up with the new craze. Lepore says she keeps her business running by “staying active on my account and answering customers as quickly as possible.” Lepore says she “posts every product I make, whether it’s a post or a story. I also ask customers to post a picture of when they receive their orders or wearing the products.” This allows her to gain publicity as people give shoutouts to Lepore’s business on social media.
With the wide variety of games and interests, you have to know what your customers want. Onuk keeps his business running by, “frequently updating the games I create and making sure the people who play them are satisfied with the current state of it. Some marketing strategies involved are investing money into advertising it, as well as creating appealing graphics that draw players in.”
When asked Lepore and Onuk if they have help with manufacturing their products, Lepore says she works alone creating, marketing, and designing everything. Onuk, on the other hand, explains that “Occasionally, I will collaborate with others to create something. There are lots of aspects of developing a game, and sometimes I may lack in an area that somebody else is better in. For that reason, I may work with others on something and divide the profit.”
Lepore’s trendy business targets high school students and college students, or anyone that wants college apparel while Onuk’s business targets all teenage groups, but typically younger kids. Make sure to look out for Lepore business, @TrendyLockerRoom on Instagram, and Onuk’s as they both plan on expanding it in the future.