When the COVID-19 pandemic began during the spring of 2020, state-mandated orders to quarantine left many feeling stuck in their homes and unsure of the future. But Paige Kirby, a Senior Retail and Fashion Merchandising minor, saw this period of respite as an opportunity.
Kirby always dreamed of starting an online boutique, and last spring, she brought her vision to life. Over the past year, she has successfully balanced being a full-time student with working and owning a business. Her online store, Whatever Makes You Happy, sells clothing and merchandise for people of all shapes and sizes.
“When the pandemic started, I would scroll through clothes ads on Instagram, and I was seeing a lot of what I would call ‘fantasy fashion,’” Kirby said. “The models would wear really tight clothes, and they’d have these washboard abs and long extensions. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don't want people to look at certain ads and think that they can’t look stylish because they don't have the same body as the model.’”
With this sentiment, Kirby aimed to create a community where people could find stylish, less form-fitting clothing, modeled on realistic bodies. Whatever Makes You Happy also has a “Self-Care Collection,” which includes comfort items like bath bombs, wine glasses, and vegan candles handmade by Kirby’s mom.
The Circleville, Ohio, native just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism: Strategic Communication on May 1. Kirby said she uses the education from her Retail and Fashion Merchandising minor “every single day,” running her small business.
“I'm really grateful for the support that all my professors have given me. The RFM program made me realize that it's very possible to be a student and an entrepreneur. And I use the student resources, like WGSN trend forecasting, on the daily,” she added.
This summer, Kirby will work as a Marketing and Merchandising Dual Intern for Pelotonia, a Columbus, OH-based nonprofit that raises money for cancer research. She looks forward to it, as she will get to put both her college major and minor to use!
Although the internship was canceled last year due to the pandemic, Kirby said it turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” pushing her to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a boutique. Now that the internship has been reoffered, her life has come full circle.
In addition to running her business and being a full-time student, Kirby worked as an Early Engagement Intern for OHIO Alumni Association from 2019-2021.
Whatever Makes You Happy has seen much success in the past year, and Kirby hopes to expand sizing and manufacturing in the future. Her advice to any student wanting to start their own business is to “just do it!”
“There are so many resources available when you’re a student. You can find friends who are graphic design majors, photographers, and more. My best friends from my freshmen year dorm are my models, and we have such a good time,” Kirby said. “We all want real-life experience, and when you run a business and get your peers involved it’s beneficial for everybody.”