Sofia Beg is a 21-year-old student in Ryerson’s early childhood education program. While her friends have midterms on their minds, she’s thinking about how she can make her customers happy.
Whenever Beg gets a break in the middle of class, she frantically refreshes her email to check the Instagram page of her business for updates. When she has a couple of hours to spare before her next class, she runs off to the closest post office to ship items her customers have ordered, to fulfil her five- to seven- business-day-delivery promise.
When Beg was five years old, her parents bought her a small jewelry-making kit. She fell in love with the craft immediately.
“I made bracelets with it and then I went around the neighbourhood with a group of friends and sold them,” says Beg, eyes bright as she recalls the memory.
Today, Beg has her own online business selling accessories such as scarves, jewelry and garments.
“I was always ambitious about having my own business,” she says. “I wanted something that I could call my own.”
When Beg decided to pursue her online business in 2012, she just wanted to do it as a hobby. But now she’s shipping items worldwide – sometimes to countries as far away as Singapore or Malaysia.
Her sister and some friends help her out with the business. Beg maintains relationships with her retailers, arranges photo shoots, finds models, takes photos and uploads everything online to market her products.
“My business is my priority, but it does get kind of hard at times as a full-time student,” Beg says. “Especially when you’re bringing a heavy bag full of items to school with you while commuting to an 8 a.m. class.”
She also uses social media to engage and form personal connections with customers. Her Instagram page has almost 30,000 followers.
She maintains a blog to market her items, and uses analytics to track how much traffic her pages get, as well as which items are of more interest to her audience.
Aqib Khan is a branding and marketing expert based in Toronto who helps businesses brand themselves. He says that even at such a young age, Beg shows the makings of a successful entrepreneur.
“She has a strong concept, strong social following and decent website to attract sales,” says Khan. “Social media is one of the most affordable tools to reach out to consumers today and using analytics to track traffic is vital to the success of a business.”
Beg says she likes to be active on Instagram because it’s where she can not only influence others, but also get ideas for her own outfits and accessories.
She adds that she enjoys leaving comments and will “like” photos she finds creative.
“I like to show that I care about their styles because when I see outfits that look amazing, they inspire me,” she says. “One ‘like’ or one comment can make someone’s day.”
Beg donates 10 per cent of her earnings to local Toronto charities. She has also donated money to help refugees in Syria and Palestinian territories through charity events.
“I’m a student and I know how hard it is to find money to spend, so I always wanted to give back and do something for others,” she said.
Beg will finish her program next spring and then concentrate on growing her business. She hopes one day to encourage other young girls to pursue their dreams of owning and running a business.
“A lot of girls younger than me will come up to me and ask, ‘how did you start a business?’” Beg says.
“I just realized one day that sitting in a classroom bored all day long isn’t for me – so I went for what I love.”