Amidst pandemic, teens use social media to grow fashion businesses

Lia Peters poses for a photo to be posted on her Instagram. Lia owns and operates an Instagram closet, @liapcloset, with a following of 12,900.  

By Molly Levine, Sophomore, Marquette High School

As COVID-19 rapidly spread across the country, teenagers were left with openings in their schedules. Clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities were cancelled, so there was now an endless amount of time to pursue hobbies and interests that otherwise were overshadowed by a busy school year. Several teenagers in St. Louis jumped at the opportunity to better their understanding of entrepreneurship and the business world. 

Lia Peters, a member of Bais Abraham Congregation and freshman at Marquette High School, is the owner of @liapcloset on Instagram. Her Instagram closet account currently has nearly 13,000 followers.

“I started my business five months ago,” Lia said. “Because of quarantine, I was bored and I also wanted to get rid of clothes I no longer needed in my closet.”

The pandemic not only kick started Lia’s fashion business, but it also substantially impacted her ability to manage it compared to “normal” times.

“I have to be careful handling my business because I don’t want to spread the virus through shipping or acquiring my product,” Lia said. “However, because of the pandemic, I now have more time to run a business since I’m home more often.” 

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Running a business requires an organized production system that often takes years to perfect. Lia, who has just entered high school, has meticulously crafted a process allowing her to ship clothing across the nation.

“Every weekend I go to local thrift stores to search for articles of clothing to sell,” Lia said. “After I take preview pictures of the clothing, I post them on my Instagram closet account. Next, I have a bidding process where I accept the highest price offering. Lastly, I package and ship the product.”

Kennedy Payne is also a freshman at Marquette and the owner of @shop.kennedyybtq on Instagram, a business similar to Lia’s. As a consumer and business producer, Kennedy was inspired by Lia’s account. 

“I admired the pictures Lia took of the clothing she was selling,” Kennedy said. “The images on her business feed go together well and are visually (appealing) to look at.”

She points out that to attract more potential teen buyers, business owners like her must display their merchandise attractively online. She also notes that as the pandemic has gotten worse, more teens have turned to online buying rather than going to a brick-and-mortar store. 

“Because of the pandemic, I don’t go shopping inside stores anymore; I prefer to shop online since stores don’t allow people to try on clothes in-person,” Kennedy said, adding that she thinks her love for current, trendy fashion contributes to her knowledge as a seller.

“I love to find pieces of clothing from thrift shops because they are sustainable,” Kennedy said. “As a teenage girl who buys from popular stores, I know what brands are currently trending amongst the younger generation.”

Other teens are also joining in on this business opportunity. Madison Marks, a member of United Hebrew Congregation and sophomore at Parkway Central High School, is owner of @refreshbyblema on Depop, a social shopping platform where millions come together to buy, sell and transform fashion. She also started her business in the beginning of the lockdown.

“I started my business two months ago because I always wanted to have a clothing business of my own that’s sustainable, eclectic and unique,” Madison said. “I decided the time was now.”

While Madison, like Kennedy, focuses on the fashion segment of the business world, she takes a different approach to the fundamentals of fashion. Madison adds touches of originality to the clothing. 

“I first find clothing that’s secondhand from a thrift store or a donation from a family member of mine,” Madison said. “[When I] look at the clothing item, I never take it for face value because it’ll often appear less than ideal. I look at the clothing with fresh eyes and think about what it can become. I then make a sketch, which I execute on the clothing. Finally, I take a photo of the product in front of my backdrop and upload those pictures to my Depop page.”

Business owners in today’s world benefit from utilizing social media. As a young entrepreneur, Madison believes that social media is integral to the fashion industry. 

“I believe social media is the most powerful tool and it’s at our disposal for essentially free,” Madison said. “As a business owner, different social media platforms are great marketing tools for me.”

With these powerful tools, entrepreneurs are capable of achieving their business aspirations despite the pandemic. Additionally, these resources allow teenagers to pursue their passions.

“My favorite part of running my own business is the finished product I create,” Madison said. “Creative bumps happen, but when something works, it’s really nice. When I have something turn out how I want it to, I’m reassured that I’m capable of doing what I love.”

These teens prove that even during difficult times, it is always possible for something positive to emerge. While the global pandemic has put an end to many opportunities, it has not been able to stop these young entrepreneurs from pursuing their ambitions.