Opportunities for entrepreneurship

Central graduates make the best of change in plans brought about by pandemic

For this year's high school graduates, the final summer before college isn't what they planned. With businesses closed, programs canceled and pools at limited capacity, these new Central alums had to find creative ways to pass the time and put money in their pockets.

Molly, Lindsey and Allison Bruns have their grandma to thank for the business venture that has kept them busy - and their bank accounts in the black - this summer.

Grandma asked her granddaughters to recreate a canvas that she saw on the internet as a gift for a high school graduate. Molly, who graduated from Hinsdale Central High School this year, started making similar canvases for her fellow graduates, each featuring the college the graduate planned to attend.

Eventually, friends and friends of friends began putting in their orders, and College Canvases was born.

"The name says it all," Molly said.

The sisters spend time each day filling orders, which arrive via Instagram, Facebook and through the website they created to market their product. Customers can choose from a handful of designs for their 11-by-14 inch canvas, each to celebrate a student's college choice.

"They each take a few hours to make," said Lindsey, a sophomore at Hinsdale Central, and up to two weeks to arrive at the

customer's home.

The custom-made signs can feature any college, and the sisters have received orders for schools they've never heard of.

It didn't take long for the Bruns sisters to pay their mother back for the seed money used to purchase initial supplies. With their debt paid, the sisters enjoy a profit from every canvas sold.

"It's been really fun," Molly said. So much so, in fact, that the sisters hope to offer the canvases for next graduation season, too.

Just to add to the fun, they've set a goal to create a canvas for at least one college in every state.

"We're getting close to being halfway through all the states in the U.S.," Molly said.

Tired parents look for relief

Lucy Fischer had a lot planned for the months between high school graduation and her first year of college.

A Hinsdale Central graduate, Fischer plans to begin a rigorous three-year pre-veterinary program at Kansas State in August. To make that happen, she needs service hours on her schedule, classes on her transcript and dollars in her pocket.

For the latter, Fischer had planned to supplement her work at a local veterinary clinic with babysitting and tutoring. An essential business, Fischer's job as a kennel assistant continued throughout the pandemic. But when COVID-19 hit, babysitting jobs dried up and tutoring jobs fell away.

With parents working from home, some families no longer needed her services. Others just felt uncomfortable having someone in their house. Thankfully, things have begun to pick up in the babysitting business.

While the beginning of summer didn't offer much in terms of moneymaking opportunities, she's making up for lost time now, spending 25 to 30 hours a week babysitting for a handful of families.

"It all piled up," she said. "People are wanting to finally get out."

Fischer suspects the pandemic also might have sparked a new loyalty in her babysitting clients.

"Because of quarantine, we've seen a focus on limiting the exposure," she said, so parents are calling the same sitter each time they need help.

The uptick in babysitting has left Fischer grateful that she frontloaded her online course. By getting it out of the way early, while moneymaking opportunities were slim, she now has more time to devote to work.

Keeping busy hasn't been a problem for Fischer. When she's not babysitting or working at the clinic, she is accumulating the 100 hours of community service and veterinary experience she needs for her college program by shadowing veterinarians, watching surgeries and fostering cats for the

Animal Rescue Foundation.

Sandwich maker to landscaper

Evan Sekiguchi hadn't planned on having a summer job this year. He didn't even plan to be in the country. But when the world began to shut down in March, so did his plan to visit Germany.

With his job at a Hinsdale sandwich shop also grounded due to COVID-19, Sekiguchi said it was time to get creative in terms of spending his time and earning some money.

After spotting a request on his neighborhood's Nextdoor site for help spreading mulch, Sekiguchi's job title quickly switched from sandwich maker to landscaper.

"That's how it all got started," said Sekiguchi, who teamed up with a handful of friends to form Mars Landscaping. They provide mulching, weeding and planting services, among other things. Some calls have generated weekly jobs and repeat clients.

"We're happy to do it," Sekiguchi said. And happy to have an alternative source of income in the months before college begins.

Sekiguchi said the experience taught him not only about caring for lawns and gardens, but about managing people and working with clients - valuable lessons no matter what title ends up on Sekiguchi's business card.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean