Dorm hustlers: Meet the students who run businesses out of their residence halls
Coming out of a dorm room one wouldn’t expect to get services like a fresh set of painted nails or gourmet street food, but some students at the University are creating their own businesses to help get through college.
“I actually started cooking and selling food during the summer, and over the summer I grew a lot,” Panha Chea said. The pre-business freshman has had over 60 orders of chicken and waffles at one point, cooked out of a Cougar Village I communal kitchen.
Chea is one of many students who have created businesses run out of their dorms. They find their clientele almost exclusively through word of mouth or social media, such as Twitter or Instagram. Some are even using the extra funds to help pay their way through college.
Most known for his mac and cheese, and what he calls a “Schmaccc-wich,” which consists of garlic buttered toast, three cheese mac and a piece of fried chicken.
His orientation leader was the one that talked to him about bringing his business to Twitter. He now uses the app to advertise his food from the “SchmacccHouse”.
“I try to do these things mainly at UH, because sometimes you don’t want to eat at Moody or Cougar Woods,” Chea said. “It’s easier and it’s cheap. Most of my meals are never over eight dollars.”
Before arriving at the University, Chea was offered a scholarship to a cooking school that he didn’t take because he did not want to be limited to just cooking. Growing up, Chea said his dad always told him that to be successful, he had to have more than one source of income.
“When I feed people, I don’t feed them just to limit it,” Chea said. “I want to put a whopping handful, because it makes them want to come back.”
Reaching a unique market
Other students run services such as a nail saloon and a smartphone screen repair shop.
Known on Twitter as “Nail’d by Q”, finance and marketing freshman Qasharri Ludy runs her nail salon right on campus.
“Other nail techs aren’t on campus, so my marketing strategies are very specific to college students,” Ludy said. “That’s why my prices are lower than any nail salon or any other nail tech that does specialized sets.”
Ludy’s clients do not only come from the University, but also Texas Southern University and some off-campus Houstonians. The money she makes from “Nail’d By Q” she said she uses to pay for her schooling at the University.
Ludy said she started doing her own nails in the seventh grade, which led to doing her friends nails for them and gave her the idea to turn it into a business.
“I’ve done people’s nails before college and they paid me for it, but it wasn’t to the set it is now where I have a business, I have a page, I have set prices and different policies,” Ludy said. “I am a business person and this is something that I am passionate about right now, so I have no problem providing the service.”
Ludy says the smell of acrylic is very strong, so she was kicked out of her old location at Cougar Village II. Now, she has a designated floor at Cougar Village I and tries to move her station around to avoid the smell bothering the residents.
“Right now I’m taking classes based on my major, and they are all business classes,” Ludy said. “So it is stuff that I can apply to my business.”
Ludy said she is an entrepreneurial person, so once she graduates and establishes her business, she sees herself running a nail salon and having other people do the nails.
“I am 100 percent invested in the customer being happy and satisfied with the whole experience,” Ludy said.
Both Ludy and Chea were interested in possibly starting a group under the name Entrepreneurial Hustlers Association. Even though the organization is not official, Chea said they are looking to invite people who are entrepreneurs to just talk about what’s trending and what are some good ideas.
“We were just talking about it to try and find other people who were business oriented,” Ludy said. “Because there are a lot of people who have businesses on campus, but they have to be business people.”
Finance junior Jonathon Woods, or “JayRepairs” on Twitter fixes cracked smartphone screens out of his dorm.
It all started for Woods after he shattered the screen of his own iPhone 7.
“One thing that I hate is a cracked screen, because when I was younger I had a cracked iPod touch and I’d always prick my fingers, which irritated me a lot,” Woods said. “I looked up about how much it was to fix screens and the prices were crazy… so, I learned how to do it and fixed it.”
Woods said he actually enjoyed learning how to repair phones and decided he wanted to learn how to fix other models.
Woods’ clientele consists of UH students. He sometimes will do the repairs in his own dorm, but most of the time he will fix a student’s phone in their dorm for them. Last semester, Woods said he fixed about 15 screens.
“A thing I’d want people to know about the business is that it’s convenient,” Woods said, “because you could go to class and by the time you come out your screen could be fixed.”
Social media has become more of a tool used for students advertising their business and the owner of Royal Lengths, exercise science sophomore Treva Ray is no exception.
She’s used Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to promote her hair extension company Royal Lengths, which was just launched in 2020 and offer more beauty products after college.
Ray acts as a customer for her own line as well. She said what started her business was buying hair extensions for herself, but getting tired of giving all of her money away to get her hair done.
“I decided to cut my beauty bill in half and begin profiting money instead of losing money,” Ray said. “With that mindset I wanted to cater to girls just like me. I love making others feel good about themselves.”