Student Turns Line of Handmade Accessories Into Successful Business

By Olivia Paladino, Contributor

College is expensive—this is a fact most students have, unfortunately, become very familiar with during their experience at Manhattan College.

Between tuition, textbooks, and—let’s face it—Uber, deli food, and nights out with friends, you might find yourself with an over drafted checking account more often than you’d like to admit. While some pay their expenses by working jobs on or off campus, this is not always an option many students’ lifestyles and schedules.

AEProfileSophomore Olivia Gartland, a Marketing and Business Analytics major at Manhattan College, has taken a more nontraditional route to her growing income by creating her own accessory business, called Olivia Mae Designs.

“Instead of buying souvenirs for my friends after my trip to Barcelona, I decided to make my friends leather trinkets,” she said, “Everyone loved them so much, and encouraged me to sell them to make some extra money on the side.”

Advertising “trendy, original, hand-made accessories” on her company’s Instagram account, Gartland sells durable leather wallets, in a variety of colors, that will add a cool, rocker vibe to any outfit, as well as glasses cases, book marks, and credit card holders. All products are created by Gartland herself, and are sold through her Etsy store for about 20-25 dollars each. The price, she explains “includes labor and material costs. Each one takes me about two hours, more or less, depending on the size.”

In addition to the extra spending cash, starting her own business has provided Gartland with valuable industry experience that the typical part-time gig could not. “I have always wanted an opportunity to start my own company. Selling my wallets through Etsy is a glimpse at what that may be like. I also love to create my own products, which would be cool to tie into my own future business,” she said, “The opportunity to promote my company is also a challenge that will teach me helpful insight in the marketing field.”

According to Gartland, learning how to create the wallets “was really just result of trial and error.” After watching tutorials on YouTube on riveting (using a metal pin to hold two pieces together) and leather-working, she purchased the materials and decided to give the wallets a shot. “The first few were totally messy,” she remembered, “But I’ve gotten a lot better with practice.”

AEProfile2To make her products, she typically purchases materials from a leather store in Manhattan, cuts the leather in her dorm room, and assembles them outdoors using a hammer. From there, they are posted on her Etsy account for purchase.

“With Etsy, shipping is very easy. First of all, I pay a monthly fee to own a shop on their website, so they do offer some services to us merchants,” Gartland said, “They create a shipping label for me, and I just package up the wallet in whatever box or bag I can find. Etsy will also quote the shipping cost when the buyer enters his/her mailing address, so my job is super simple.”

Though she admits it has been difficult to keep up with her business during the school year, Gartland has big plans for Olivia Mae Designs this coming summer, including new merchandise and improved media presence.

“I hope to increase my sales and step up my social media game. I also hope to form a solid inventory, rather than just making the wallets on demand. I would like to branch out to mens wallets and purses,” she said, “I have a reversible shearling purse in the works right now and I just gave away my first male wallet. Trying new product types and seeing what works is going to be a long process, but an exciting one.”

Follow Olivia Mae Designs on Instagram, @OliviaMaeDesign, and purchase Gartland’s hand-made accessories at