From Broke Besties to Business Partners: An Etsy Shop Origin Story

Theodorou draws inspiration for her earring designs based on what's trending or sometimes, seasonal. Photo courtesy of Broke College Besties.

The past two years have brought new and surprising changes in the lives of many students. A few have picked up a new hobby or interest, while others have turned to a completely different sense of style.

But for some business savvy individuals, the unexpected changes that have come about since the start of the pandemic include a completely new entrepreneurship. 

Such was the case for second-year adolescent education major Elaine Theodorou, when she decided to create the Etsy business Broke College Besties with her best friend back home in Rockland County.

With a fittingly relatable name, Theodorou and her friend realized that during a time in which in-person jobs weren’t the safest or most socially distant option, creating their own business was a promising solution.

The business sells a plethora of products that all stem out of hobbies unique to the two college students. From light-up bottles, to bedazzled items to distinctive earrings and rings, the creativity of their Etsy shop is never-ending.

The business’ first items for sale originated as a sustainable solution to the empty bottles or cans that the pair seemed to collect throughout their day to day lives.

“My best friend’s house has a lot of bottles and cans 24/7 and I used to collect a lot of glass bottles that would just sit in the corner with nothing to do,” Theodorou explained. 

The two decided they could repurpose these items into decorations. Theodorou’s friend took up bedazzling bottles and cans while Theodorou took up decorating and placing lights inside of the recyclables.

But as the business went on, Theodorou saw the opportunity to incorporate her long standing hobby of creating jewelry such as earrings and rings into the shop as well.

“I love to craft. I love to use different materials. When it came to earrings I figured, I have to use my skill,” Theodorou stated. “I also started making rings with wire and from there I just started brainstorming.”

For Theodorou, the more unique the earrings the better. 

Any visitor to her Etsy shop will be met with a plethora of unconventional pairs such as her large, ducky dangle earrings, lollipop earrings or earrings that look like bubble tea.

The bubble tea earrings specifically are one of Theodorou’s favorite pairs that she’s created. Crafted out of a small cup charm, black polymer clay balls and colored resin, the earrings bring an adorable accessory to fans of bubble tea everywhere. 

The creation of Broke College Besties was an unexpected change brought about during an unexpected year. Fittingly, the new business began around the same time as 2020’s end. 

The pair officially opened shop on Dec. 27, 2020. A new business is a promising way to begin a new year and as we fastly approach the last two months of 2021, Theodorou is proud to see the growth her business has had since its start. 

“It started in both of our parents’ houses, we were both in our bedrooms,” Theodorou emphasized. “Not in our parents’ basement but kind of the same idea.”

Theodorou has been most surprised by seeing the pool of customers for her business that just started in her room at home expand from just friends to people from over 15 different states.

“There’s people from other states buying and we’re just like ‘How did they find us? This is so crazy,’” Theodorou explained.

Theodorou has just transferred to New Paltz this semester meaning she and her friend must run the shop from two separate locations. However, the small, homemade business is still going strong.

Recently, Theodorou has advertised a new, limited Halloween collection of earrings featuring a range of seasonal pendants from pumpkins and bats to witches’ hats and ghosts.

As many of the business’ Etsy reviews will tell you, the pair of besties go above and beyond in creating their products and creating a wonderful customer experience. Reading these reviews is one of Theodorou’s absolute favorite parts of running the shop.

“Every time I see that five star rating and that comment I’m like ‘You know what? That’s it. That made our whole day,’” said Theodorou. 

Check out the businesses’ full collection of jewelry and decorative bottles at their Etsy site and follow them on Instagram @brokecollegebesties.