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Penn State Student’s Quarantine Hobby Turns To Dream Business

What started as a quarantine hobby for Penn State senior Alex Blomstrom has turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.

A year and a half ago, she, like many others, was stuck at home and in desperate need of some sort of activity or hobby to keep her occupied. Cue the birth of Alex Blom Creates, Blomstrom’s way of incorporating her love for creativity, photography, design making, and producing into a fully independent, self-run business, with now close to 15,000 followers on Instagram.

On her website alone, Blomstrom has sold more than 3,200 orders to date. Not included are the hundreds of orders sold exclusively through her Instagram page before her website was created, plus any custom orders surely to make that number significantly higher. She’s had multiple TikToks go viral, and her launches sometimes sell out in just minutes.

ABC has managed to find its way all the way to the Netherlands. Now, she’s getting requests to set up shipping for her products to places like Japan and Australia.

Blomstrom’s business was born last year when her family attempted to give back to struggling communities.

“I started a photography business the year before, and then photography was basically illegal during quarantine. It wasn’t an essential business. So I was just kind of exploring another outlet to pour my time into,” Blomstrom said. “I felt like everything in the world was so heavy at the time between COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and George Floyd’s death that I got the idea of making scrunchies with my grandmother. I started donating $1 made from every sale to Feeding America just trying to do what I could to give back because there were so many people, even in my community alone, that were struggling.”

Blomstrom got her mom a Cricut machine for Christmas, and just through experimenting with that, started producing and designing original clothing pieces.

“I really loved the idea of bringing a concept to life and making it on a shirt. I got the idea to make my own designs for clothing, but particularly, I wanted to do something to help people who were struggling the most at the time,” Blomstrom said. “I created four designs that surrounded the concept of ‘spreading kindness’ because I’ve always been really passionate about spreading light and spreading a smile where I can because you never know what’s happening in someone’s life behind closed doors.”

Blomstrom started selling these designs and t-shirts through her Instagram page, which unexpectedly took off. She donated 10% of proceeds from all of her sales to the Philadelphia Black Giving Circle, which donated money to whichever organization was most in need in Philadelphia at the time.

However, in those early days of her business, Blomstrom needed to overcome the anxiety of being in front of the camera showing off her product, marketing something she’s poured her heart and soul into, and not knowing how a certain product would be received.

Luckily for her, they’ve all been received pretty darn well.

“A lot of what I was doing on Instagram, in the beginning, was just sharing all of the new different items I was making, and I did a lot of custom orders because I didn’t really have a plan for ABC besides the ‘Spread Kindness’ line at the time,” Blomstrom said. “So, I was taking a lot of custom orders and just trying to learn the ins and outs of using social media as a marketing platform. I really think it helped that it was during quarantine when so many people were spending more time on their phones, and I made it my goal to build a platform that was a safe and happy space on the internet.”

Soon, Blomstrom’s DMs were flooded with hundreds of custom requests, she was working 15-hour-days, and ABC was taking over her life (and her living room). None of this would’ve been possible without the support of her family.

“When school started back up, I found myself so overwhelmed with work and trying to balance all of my responsibilities, and having my family around was just an incredible support system,” Blomstrom said. “And with the scrunchies and working on them with my grandmother, it gave me a great chance to bond with her. I have my family to thank for all of the support they gave me during the process of those early days, viewing my designs, and helping me figure out what I truly wanted to do.”

Finding a work, school, life balance has been the most challenging part of running her business, Blomstrom says. She regularly shares tips on her social media page for working on your mental health and tips for prioritizing things on a to-do list. Still, running a full-time business by yourself is a huge task.

“Last fall, I found myself really struggling to find a work-life balance. I found myself waking up every morning so overwhelmed about my to-do list and feeling like even if I worked from the moment I woke up, did my classes, and then stayed awake as long as I could until I went to bed, I still couldn’t get everything done,” Blomstrom said.

To help manage her stress and anxiety, Blomstrom created a planner to help herself and others struggling with prioritizing and organizing their time. She implemented some of the strategies for managing stress she’s learned as a psychology minor into the planner and found that if she wants to sustain being as successful as she is, she must take care of herself first and foremost.

In early August, Blomstrom transitioned her business to inventory-held products without custom-made orders. She did so in order to make the business run more efficiently, but also to help herself manage both being back at school full time, too.

She outsources her embroidered tees to a variety of small businesses, her way of continuing to give back and help other small businesses or organizations just like her.

These days, Blomstrom says she spends at least eight hours a day on her business. Her day entails everything from designing new products, speaking to manufacturers, packaging, and shipping out orders, or marketing and running her social media accounts. Blomstrom is still just as busy but for her, it’s a blessing. She’s doing what she loves, and there’s no better job in the world than something you’re truly passionate about.

“I will have the proofs and know what the design is going to look like on the product. But to this day still, when the product actually comes in and I can hold it in my hand, it’s surreal and the most fulfilling and rewarding thing,” Blomstrom said. “I was on campus last week, and I saw someone wearing one of my shirts from a distance, and I literally burst into tears. I’ve been at home for so long that I haven’t really seen any of my products once they leave my house. Seeing it on someone is the most rewarding thing.”

Blomstrom said that becoming a THON captain her sophomore year was instrumental in helping her learn the tools and management strategies necessary to run a business.

“Being on public relations my sophomore year was just amazing because being surrounded by just so many like-minded people who were open to collaboration and creativity was such an incredible experience. It really sparked my interest in pursuing creatives in one way or another,” Blomstrom said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do this without THON or the groundwork laid in my finance classes here.”

Moving forward, Blomstrom said she’s going to continue to seize this opportunity for as long as she’s blessed with it. After graduating, continuing to run ABC would be a dream. She’s constantly doodling, planning, and thinking of new products.

It’s further proof that when you have an idea and a dream, there are no limits on how far it can take you.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a junior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]

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