Many students were adversely affected by the COVID outbreak, but two students were able to turn their hobbies into bigger opportunities and make the most of an otherwise bad situation.
With businesses and schools closing and people having to stay home, students looked for other ways to keep busy and entertain themselves. These students found ways to help turn their interests into income and expand their respective networks at a time when face-to-face social interaction was lacking.
Taylor Ussery, an entomology major at NMSU, was able to turn her hobby into a growing business. She has collected various isopods, insects, reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians for years. She began to breed some of her collection to sell to pet stores around Las Cruces and El Paso. She realized the niche market she had tapped into and the connections she made through the pet shop sales could help her expand her business.
Ussery created an Instagram account for her business to display the various critters she has available. She began to take orders to send reptiles and isopods through the mail. “People were more willing to buy higher end critters when the stimulus checks came out,” Ussery said.
The pandemic created opportunity for Ussery, but it also caused some problems for her business. “Most places will not guarantee overnight shipping because of COVID,” Ussery said. “I have lost bugs in the mail for two weeks when they were supposed to be shipped overnight. People are already reluctant to pay overnight shipping fees and even more when it’s not a guarantee.”
Although Ussery has had stable and reliable customers at the pet stores she has become acquainted with, the pandemic has also affected her ability to advertise. When she was able to advertise more, her business increased, but the risk of shipping still made it difficult to make sales. Despite these setbacks, Ussery still found success.
Alfonso Pesqueira has many hobbies. One of them is playing videogames. Pesqueira’s university classes and meetings were all online and his other hobbies became limited. He decided to try his chance at streaming his gameplay on Twitch. “I actually started streaming a bit before COVID, but I only used my PS4,” Pesqueira said. “I was able to buy a PC and started to invest more time in streaming and gained a bit of a fanbase.”
He started streaming because he likes games and found other people he could relate to on Twitch. “I don’t really care about the money. It’s more about fun than anything,” Pesqueira said. “Building the community and interacting with viewers is fun. I’ve met people from Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, and from other states here.” Because many people were also spending most of their time at home, online communities grew and flourished.
Pesqueira now had a way to use his free time, but he did have to make adjustments to his daily schedule. “People get used to you being online at a certain time and they get a little annoyed if you’re not there at the usual times,” he said. “You kinda learn better time management. You schedule times to do homework, exercise, cook, and then stream.” He found ways to balance his life to better accommodate streaming. He became more conscious of how he used his time and created a schedule to fit in school work and his other hobbies.
These are just two examples of NMSU students who were able to turn hobbies into something more. They had an interest in something and pursued it. There are opportunities for everyone and new markets to be tapped into. More and more people are finding ways to turn their hobbies into something much bigger.