Student-run businesses compete in dorm black market
Editor’s note: Several years ago, The Cougar published a similar article titled “Dorm Hustlers.” After the piece was published, UH Housing and Facilities shut down all the businesses mentioned in the article for violation of dorm policies. To avoid a similar situation, The Cougar has redacted the names and identities of the individuals in this article.
Behind the plaster walls and rowed windows of UH’s dorms, a bustling black market has emerged. Students are selling hot plates, baked items and a plethora of other goods and services.
“There’s no better person to work for than yourself,” said an anonymous student.
After one student built a successful following by selling baked goods, competition naturally followed. Now, a plethora of students have started to sell food out of their dorms.
“It got really competitive because other people started doing it too, but I was the first,” an anonymous source said. “My business stands out more because we are the original and I add extra things that make my food taste unique.”
One resident was inspired by the State Fair of Texas and wished to bring a piece of it back to Houston. She started by making fried Oreos but has now expanded her menu to include classic fair foods like funnel cake and fried cinnamon rolls.
Another resident was inspired by her family’s catering business and hoped to share her African culture by making traditional dishes such as jollof rice, plantains and grilled chicken.
Students selling food in the dorms mainly promote their business through social media, where most of their clientele is based. Specifically, students posted on a public Snapchat story and because of the hundreds of views the story received, friendly competition quickly followed.
“It got controversial when people started posting on Snapchat that it was Cougar Village I versus Cougar Village II, and we started to get a lot of attention on Snapchat,” an anonymous student said.
The two sides of the dorms went head-to-head, and as promotion boomed on Snapchat, these student-run businesses gained large amounts of customers.
One student’s business gained so much popularity that she enlisted another student to work for her business since she could not keep up with the demand alone.
The businesses allow them to make extra money while living on campus, according to the students.
“On-campus jobs are getting really competitive, and I’m not work-study, so I feel like my employment wasn’t prioritized by the university,” an anonymous student said.
Other students said that being able to make money on campus is a convenient way for them to have a side hustle without the extra toll of transportation.
“Nobody else is going to be able to pay you what you’re worth, besides yourself,” an anonymous student said. “I’ve always had a business mindset and getting to do this helps me practice for the future.”
Despite the dedication and entrepreneurial spirit shown in these student’s businesses, UH Housing and Facilities advised The Cougar that operating a business out of a dorm is still prohibited. While they could not point to a specific policy, they stated that there is a “blanket ban” on the operation of any business from within campus housing.