What does a normal week look like for a college student with two businesses, eight email accounts, frequent business trips to different cities, a student organization to run and a full academic course load? Busy, to say the least.
This is an average week for sophomore Jaylin Bolden. With a jam-packed calendar, Bolden has had to sacrifice free time and sleep in the process of establishing herself as a serious entrepreneur at the age of 19.
Bolden, a Washington D.C. native, has been supporting herself financially since the age of 16 and has since accumulated an impressive list of business ventures including a photography studio, a graphic design business and event planning.
As the president of The Entrepreneur Society SJU, or TESS, Bolden also shares her experiences with fellow student entrepreneurs and gives them a space to discuss their personal strategies and struggles. Prior to this interview she held an event with TESS and was preparing to head to Atlanta for business.
“I’m not gonna say it’s an easy task, I do struggle with having a lot with a lot on my plate. So, my advice to another student entrepreneur who has 2 businesses and is running an org… well, I don’t know if anyone else does that,” Bolden laughed.
”But, I always tell people you can’t do it by yourself.”
Bolden has a strong support system of mentors, advisors and assistants behind her, a manager who keeps her organized, a mother and sister who act as role models and a pastor who she goes to for guidance.
Another key to keeping sane amidst a heavy workload and busy professional and personal life is keeping everything organized, whether that means keeping an agenda book or setting reminders on your phone. According to Bolden, “It’s all about the resources you use around you.”
Bolden leaped into creating her own brand at the age of 16 when she discovered that her passion for photography could be something she could build a business around.
When her older sister became a makeup artist at 17, Bolden was always asked to take photographs of the clients who visited their home.
After investing in a camera, some studio lights and backdrops, Bolden and her sister created a makeover and photoshoot business in their basement and at one point had 20 girls streaming in weekly,paying to get pampered and photographed. The two soon outgrew their basement and invested in a studio space in D.C. where their business was able to expand.
Upon moving to Queens to attend St. John’s University and study cyber security, Bolden hired three assistants to handle her photography studio back home. This has allowed Bolden to craft her second business in online graphic design.
Jaylin Graphics, which Bolden registered as an LLC, is Bolden’s endeavor as a self-taught graphic designer.
“A lot of my clients always ask me, ‘what classes did you take in college?’ I’m like, cyber security is my major, it has nothing to do with my businesses, so I learned everything off of YouTube. I never took a photoshop class, never took an illustrator class. YouTube is like my best friend,” she said.
Bolden offers various services, from event flyers to a “social media revamp,” which includes custom Instagram story covers, or the “MUA package” which includes graphics specifically designed for makeup artists and their small businesses.
Building up her graphic design business has taken what Bolden believes to be some of the most important characteristics of being a boss – passion, practice and self-sufficiency. Her laptop accompanies her everywhere she goes and Photoshop is typically open to a current project because, “every day is a graphics day.”
Every day is indeed a graphics day – with 173 current orders in the past two months, Bolden typically goes to bed late, wakes up at dawn and blocks off time in between classes and on weekends to work on people’s logos, flyers and websites. Business is booming, and Bolden’s books are closed for projects until later this month.
“Word of mouth is everything,” Bolden said, as she is consistently reaching out to small businesses on social media to promote her brand.
“There’s not many graphic designers who are 19 and are charging what I charge.”
Having been surrounded by other young entrepreneurs for years, Bolden noticed that with so many similar entrepreneurs in the DMV area, they all look at each other as competition.
“I thought, ‘How can we unite all these females in one environment, so we can know we’re here to support each other, we’re not here to be competitive and we have to uplift one another?”
From this brainstorm came Bolden’s sold-out “Boss Brunch” events, a student-entrepreneur networking event for young women in the DMV area that encourages female empowerment and establishing connections.
These young women are given a space to market themselves and their businesses through activities such as elevator pitch challenges that push them out of their comfort zones and help them to find common ground with one another.
“I’ve met so many girls, even at my events, who will say ‘I’m ready to give up, I don’t have a passion for it anymore, I don’t have a drive for it,’ so I think it’s very important that we just push each other,” Bolden said.
“Uplifting the next woman, you never know how they can help you in the future, you never know how supportive they can be,” Bolden continued. “At the end of the day we’re all females and we are often underestimated. I’ve been underestimated by so many people being a woman of color and just being a woman in general, so I always say we have to encourage each other.”
Bolden has no plans of slowing down. With prom season fast approaching, she’ll be in high demand and picking her camera up again soon. She has plans to raise prices on her graphic design packages, is in the midst of planning a Boss Brunch week-long retreat and is also in the process of organizing a gala for student entrepreneurs on campus. With the latter event, Bolden wants to make sure that fellow student entrepreneurs are acknowledged and celebrated at St. John’s.
“If you want to do something, as long as you have the mindset for it you can do it. People always tell me, ‘Jaylin you’re the jack of all trades, you’re so versatile,’ and I am — but because I have the mindset for it.”
For Bolden, there is nothing too far out of reach.
“If I wanted to go out here and make a cupcake business I could, because I have the mindset to do it, the drive to do it. A lot of people are doing it for money, and you really can’t do stuff just for the money,” Bolden said.
“It comes from your heart as well — if you don’t have the passion to do it then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Jaylin Bolden started her first business, a photography studio, at age 16.
Jaylin Bolden designed this flyer for her annual “Boss Brunch” event.