Successful small businesses require dedication and organization


courtesy of Matt Sprague

Mary Kate Battles takes photographs for her small business, Mary Kate McKenna Photography.

by Elizabeth Anderson, Editor-in-Chief

Have you ever dreamed of starting your own business?

Launching a brand may seem too difficult and time-consuming if you are dealing with heavy course loads and extracurricular activities, yet many students find it rewarding–in more ways than one.

Miranda Mossburg, a senior at Towson University, owns an online clothing and accessory store called Sweet As Sugarcane. Mossburg taught herself to sew when she was eight, but stopped when she started college, due to the demands of her courses.

Courtesy of Miranda Mossburg
Miranda Mossburg sells clothing and accessory products at a local bazaar.

“When I…realized hand sewing was really relaxing, I started making stuff at school. I moved home for personal reasons that year, and I just kept making more and more stuff, so I thought I’d try selling some of it,” said Mossburg.

Mossburg formally registered the EIN number (a tax identification number needed for most small businesses) for Sweet as Sugarcane in September 2019, but she has been working on her Etsy store since November 2018.

The ability to make a profit from doing something you love is just one of the many gratifying aspects of entrepreneurship, particularly for students looking for a simple way to earn more money for college, car payments, and spending money.

Starting a business is now easier than ever due to the widespread use of the Internet and social media. Entrepreneurs can utilize platforms like Etsy, Instagram, and Facebook Marketplace to market and sell items to consumers locally, nationally or even internationally.

The best part about selling online is that most of these applications are completely free to use.

If you’re interested in running a business, most have a good chance of success as long as they are willing to work hard and persevere through difficulty. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, 80% of small businesses will live past their first year.

Mary Kate Battles, owner of Mary Kate McKenna Photography, had the idea for a lifestyle photography business while she was babysitting in college. She turned it into a part-time gig in 2004 and began running it full time in 2009. She now has a studio in Downtown Frederick and has been recognized by The Washington Post, Woman’s Day magazine, and The Today Show.

Battles has certainly encountered obstacles along the way, but because of them she has also experienced great personal growth.

Courtesy of Mary Kate Battles
Mary Kate Battles does work for her photography business.

“I leaned heavily on my mentors and…listened to their advice and suggestions [during planning]. But in the end, only I could make the changes and decisions needed to grow my business,” said Battles. “It doesn’t always work out like you thought, but you will always learn something.”

Battles, like Mossburg, loves that entrepreneurship has allowed her to turn her interests into a way to make a living, but says that her favorite part is the flexibility it allows.

“I can schedule sessions for times that work best for me, edit around my family’s needs, and do the backend of my business from just about anywhere,” said Battles. “That leaves me room to travel and spend more time with my child and husband.”

As the sole employee of her business, the most challenging part of Battles’ job is the number of duties she has, especially in the weeks before a holiday.

Most small business owners find that the holiday season is the busiest time of year for them due to high sales on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

“I [had to make sure] that I had enough inventory and was prepared to utilize every option to push sales and marketing,” said Mossburg. “I think I’ve handled it well. I got ahead of my studies…and made my organization at home easy. [I’ve] liked that there’s been a constant flow of…orders and interest.”

Despite balancing busyness at school and in business, the challenges of starting a small business are likely to be overshadowed by the benefits. If you’re still not sure, then just remember: it’s a small business, and you don’t have to worry about pressure from others to make it perfect. Do what’s right for you.

The key to success, and to taking your first steps?

“Just do it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t set your sights on ‘becoming an entrepreneur,’ but when you have something you like and you know you can succeed with it, you…know you have something [great],” said Mossburg.