BYU students, alumni turn passions into profitable businesses

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Elizabeth Lin Johnson makes a cake for her business, Lizzie’s Bakery. Johnson currently works another job while still running her business, but said Lizzie’s Bakery is her true passion. (Elizabeth Lin Johnson)

BYU students and alumni are turning their hobbies into side businesses in the midst of other responsibilities.

BYU advertising student Quinn Frehner turned his love for fashion into a few different successful business ventures. Despite his busy schedule, with college classes and working another job, Frehner said his entrepreneurial pursuits have been worthwhile.

“It really comes down to passion,”  Frehner said. 

Quinn Frehner started his first brand in 2015 for custom suiting and shirts. Frehner said starting a business taught him so many things and he’s grateful he just went for it. (Quinn Frehner)

Frehner started his first brand, Quinnten & George Clothing, in 2015. Frehner is working on his second fashion brand, called Quinn Dillon.

He said he initially started his brand because he prefers custom-fitted clothes, which made shopping incredibly difficult. Rather than just waiting around for the perfect brand to come along, he decided to start his own.

Frehner said it was hard to juggle his entrepreneurial pursuits with college and his other job.

“I work full time, go to school at nights and then also try to balance my businesses and marriage, as well,” Frehner said. “Sometimes I don’t get a lot of sleep because I am thinking or doing something, but it all pays off.” 

Frehner said one of the biggest lessons he’s learned is anything is possible with thought and hard work. He also said it’s important people start businesses because of passion and not strictly because of money.

Gretchen Larson hand-draws cards for her Etsy business, Pillownotes. She said the name Pillownotes comes from an important part of her family culture — their tradition of leaving positive notes on each others’ pillows as a surprise. (Gretchen Larson)

BYU special education major Gretchen Larson started a business called Pillownotes to give herself a creative outlet.

“I went to art school for about a year and a half before switching directions and transferring to BYU to study special education,” Larson said. “Having Pillownotes as a side business gave me a creative outlet I craved as an artist, while being able to pursue a more formal education in a different field of study.”

Larson said she creates hand-drawn greeting cards and holiday cards, and sells prints of them on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade or vintage items. She said she recommends Etsy as a great website to get started for a creative business.

BYU alum Elizabeth Johnson owns Lizzie’s Bakery, and she makes custom wedding cakes, birthday cakes and special occasion desserts.

Johnson said she started the business after getting laid off from her job.

“I was doing social media at a tech company for a year and a half, when just a few weeks before getting laid off with a couple hundred employees, I decided I wanted to bake cakes again,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she is grateful she decided to start baking cakes again because it quickly became her and her husband’s main source of income.

“Next thing I knew, I was selling eight cakes a week in Utah,” Johnson said. “I was making more money selling cakes than I was with my main job.” 

Johnson’s business, Lizzie’s Bakery, is now located in Los Angeles, where she has found a lot of her clients through social media and networking. Johnson said she has met several women and mothers who run businesses in the wedding industry, and admires their work ethic.

“I know it’s possible and I know it’s going to be super hard when I have kids, but I just see the hustle,” Johnson said. “The hustle is so real in this kind of industry, the wedding industry, or for anyone trying to start a side business.”

Johnson said she admires women who are homemakers and also business owners on the side. She said there’s so much people can learn from business.

“I’m always learning, but it keeps me busy in a good way,” Johnson said.