Bernice Mau: How to grow a successful side-hustle as a student

February 21, 2022

Flickering Storm is an Etsy store selling stickers, prints and embroidery run by CMNS student Bernice Mau and her sister.

Tell us about what you’re studying at SFU.

I am a communication major and sociology minor student interested in learning about media and human behaviour. Because I didn't know what to pursue when I first started university, I just followed my interests in social science, media, pop culture, and learning the behind-the-scenes of how influencers work. I am not quite sure about my future path, but I would love to work in marketing, PR, or social media.

What was the inspiration behind your online store, Flickering Storm.

Before starting our business, I always bought from the other Etsy stores. Also, when our friends were starting their businesses too, we suddenly realized that we could also turn our hobbies into a business. It was a quick moment that we decided to make our own art! The inspirations come from our common interests - entertainment and pop culture. Basically, our designs are inspired by the artist, TV shows and music videos that we love, like Taylor Swift.

What is your bestseller and favourite design?

Our best-selling product is the Taylor Swift print 'If you never bleed, you're never gonna grow' with over 1000 sales. And I like the Olivia Rodrigo vinyl sticker a lot because I had a lot of fun designing it. I also love the Mamma Mia collection.

What has been an unexpected challenge you faced starting and maintaining a small business?

The unexpected challenges would be dealing with uncontrollable events, like the logistics and delivery problems due to Covid. Customers were sometimes unhappy that their products were delayed or didn’t show up. I learned to let go of the worry about things that I couldn’t control. It is also challenging when some customers request customized designs for gifting because it is time-consuming to create and hard to say no.

What motivated you to donate a portion of profits to various charities?

It was the time of the resurgent of Black Lives Matter when we first began. So, we wanted to give monetary support to the community and redistribute the funds to different social parties. Because my sister already had a full-time job, so we decided to donate half of her embroidery profit to different organizations and fundraisers every month.

What is it like managing a business while in school?

I feel like it is so hard to find the balance. I am always occupied with schoolwork. It makes it so hard to get inspired and be creative. So, my sister always help me out by packing the parcels and uploading new designs. It is great to have someone split the work with you, so you don't have to worry about it too much.

Have you integrated anything you've learned from your studies in communication into your business? Are there any Communication courses that have been helpful for your business?

My sister also did a communication minor, so we think with a communication mind. We used the sender and receiver model when we think about our business and roles. CMNS 223 is helpful too. It talked about how to use communications in advertising and marketing. I really enjoyed the course and will take CMNS 323 to learn more about that in the future.

What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

Always remember to be patient and take one step at a time. Don't expect everything will go the way you thought it would.