Finding Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

Even though the gig economy has existed for years and years, it has only recently begun to grow rapidly. Several factors contribute to this surge in entrepreneurial spirit, but perhaps none as pressing as the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something that Romero student, Alyssa Da Silva, can relate to since she took advantage of COVID lockdowns to build her own online business.  

What is the “Gig Economy?”

In simplest terms, the gig economy (also known as the ‘sharing economy’) is a job market that includes both part-time and freelance jobs. It is customary for these jobs to be flexible, temporary, in some way allow connection with others through a digital/online platform, and performed  by independent workers. Such  workers  are often  referred to as ‘gig workers’.

Gig workers can also be in a variety of areas – ranging from being an entertainer to working for companies such as Uber or Instacart. When compared to employees with full-time jobs, gig workers are able to perform broad tasks and work on a limited, project basis. Gig workers and the gig economy as a whole are often more refined and successful in cities with larger populations.

How has it changed throughout the pandemic?

It is important to note that there were other factors that helped popularize the gig economy prior to the pandemic’s existence. An example of this is the technology we are surrounded by and use in everyday life. This can include digital programs and new app-based platforms that allow us to directly contact and stay in touch with others from anywhere in the world. Once COVID-19 lockdowns were implemented, even more attention was paid to the gig economy and its workers on a global aspect. This is for many reasons.

 The first reason for this is that gig work ended up becoming a necessity. With having to be in quarantine for months on end and being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, many people weren’t able or even allowed to maintain their regular, in person “9-to-5 jobs.” Inevitably, many people became jobless and were tirelessly searching for employment opportunities (thus, meaning they were not receiving a steady income; if any at all). This is when the gig economy came to the rescue. For some, it is a way to make additional money to help compensate for extra costs while others who lost their jobs or had their hours shortened became fully reliant on it to earn a living. In cases where parents could not hire a babysitter or someone to watch over their kids, the gig economy gave them the chance to concentrate on taking care of their family’s needs while still efficiently working in the comfort of their home.

The second reason for the prosperity of the gig economy during this era is that it was able to bring people together without having them be physically present. Obviously, the connection that people once had was taken away which led to many repercussions. To counteract that, the gig economy was used to provide home-bound buyers with their needs at a quicker rate.

As another matter of fact, the gig economy kept businesses open that would have shut down otherwise. Many small businesses struggled to hire and retain staff, but the gig economy addressed and resolved this problem. An example of this is when delivery people became an essential part of providing food to hungry consumers – this in turn helped keep chefs employed and restaurants afloat.

Finally, people were able to reap the benefits of the gig economy: these can include broadening their skills, constructing a better resume, having experience in multiple workforces, more economic and work opportunities, and flexibility in working hours along with jobs.

Alyssa Da Silva’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

To bring more understanding to what it is actually like to be a gig worker, I was introduced to a fellow Romero student who had a unique story to tell. At first glance, Alyssa Da Silva appears to be your typical highschooler, but there is a lot more to her than what meets the eye.

Alyssa is a “bracelet making, Hot Wheels collecting, car loving girl” as she likes to put it in her own words. As shocking as it sounds, she started her first business at the start of the pandemic in April of 2020. “…My small business was once called ‘Pinkybracelets’, but is now named ‘Pinky Customs’. I started off with (hand-making) custom beaded bracelets and eventually expanded my business to handmade accessories and car accessories – in connection to my love for the car community.” Alyssa went on to explain to me that the intentions behind creating this business were to make money on her own and of course “essentially buy my (her) dream car” that she can work on in her free time.

Sure enough in May of 2021, Alyssa purchased a 1993 Mazda Miata with some help from her parents. Remarkably, Alyssa is the exact same age as me and is also in Grade 10. When I asked her how she is capable of balancing all of these responsibilities and taking such a laborious role, she responded with “As a student I prioritize my school work and well-being first. I find that it’s important that my education comes first so it can help expand my knowledge for some issues I may come across in the process of my business.” I then followed up by trying to see what type of responses she has been receiving and she went on to say “The response has been overwhelming! The feedback has been amazing and I’m beyond thankful….”

“Although sometimes it is difficult to juggle a business with school and a social life at such a young age, I couldn’t be more blessed….” As I expected, Alyssa did face some backlash simply because she is a prosperous 15 year old girl doing what she loves. “I’ve definitely been doubted a lot…. I find that some people find it impossible and hard to believe that a 15 year old runs her own successful business, and is building her dream car. I tend to just put the negative criticism behind me because I’m continuously working towards my goals, and I know what I’m capable of as an individual! I also find that when I tell some males that I’m building a car that they think that I’m making it up…. I don’t let it phase me! I may not have the best knowledge on cars and I may mess up some (car) names here and there, but I know what I’m capable of…. ”

Alyssa has already made it this far in such a short span of time and it got me thinking – what is next for this entrepreneur? “My biggest goal is to get Pinky Customs BIG! I want to expand it as much as I can. I want to fulfill everyone’s desires as much as I can as well as to relate my car back to my business and expand my car accessories line as well as continuously building my car!”

Personally, I think Alyssa is fantastic at what she does and I highly suggest you check out Pinky Customs on Instagram/Facebook @pinkycustoms and follow her car’s journey at @pinkyyata (only on Instagram).

Closing Thoughts

More and more people like Alyssa will start developing their own businesses and being a part of this economy and in response to this, we should start to get rid of the mentality that all gig workers are someone with a ‘side hustle’ or taking on ‘extra work’ – some are developing a full career from this. I also think that as the world continues to advance, we must advance with it. We need to prepare for these types of changes in the workplace and support gig workers to the best of our abilities.

Thanks for reading!
Melissa Andrade

Romero Visionaries Presents…

Firstly, let me just start by stating that I’m by no means a health professional. Rather, I’m a curious teen who like so many teenagers, has been navigating the complexities of COVID. From adults to teens and younger children, people around the world have been adversely affected by COVID-19. These past 17 months have been extremely difficult and as we look to hope and normalcy, the adverse effects cannot be ignored.

From my perspective, when the issue of mental health and wellbeing arises in a conversation, teens are often overlooked. If and when, we are given the chance to speak our minds, we are either misunderstood or not taken as seriously as we should be. With all of this in mind, it’s important to highlight the mental struggles that teenagers are going through, thoroughly address them, and to provide teens with the tools to work through the challenges they are facing. Change is happening. Real systematic change is needed.

Looking beyond COVID, teenagers were already quite vulnerable. In other words, being a teenager was hard to begin with. Adults have shared with me that being a teenager was the most difficult years of their life. Frankly, I can completely understand this. It’s not easy being a teenager.  You are faced with so many new realities that didn’t exist in early childhood or adolescence.

For starters, there are the pressures to conform to the standards and expectations of the world, your friends, and your family. Then, there is the idea of having to discover who you are and who you want to become in a short time span. Not to mention, there’s school, home, and other responsibilities that weigh on your shoulders. On top of this, you have to navigate emotions that are completely new to you. I myself can attest that the list can just go on and on from here.

Add a world-wide pandemic to being a teenager just further complicates things.

For the adults reading this:

Imagine being a teenager in March 2020. The world stopped. We went from a two week extended March Break to now 17 months of COVID impacted schooling. All things online added to an already stressful situation as did seeing real world realities unfold on social media while living in isolation. From COVID deaths to social and racial injustices taking place, the world seemed to be burning.

The cumulative effect of all of those factors have been debilitating in many ways for teenagers. Mental health has deteriorated and we can’t pretend that everything in just fine. For there to be positive change there must be a shift that promotes Mental Wellness everyday of the year.

Fortunately, for us at Romero we are a community with supports and so many adults who deeply care. Also, The Toronto Catholic District School Board takes mental health and well-being very seriously and has a number of supports available as found here: Student Mental Health Resources

Looking ahead, let’s remember to take care of one another in our daily interactions. So, remember to be kind, listen, pause, find balance and importantly ask for help if needed.

Thanks for reading,

Melissa

Romero Visionaries Presents…

Hello Romero Family!

My name is Melissa Andrade and I’m a Grade 10 student here at Romero.

Recently, I joined a new school club called Romero Visionaries. Moderated by our Vice Principal, Mr. Perrotta, Romero Visionaries provides students – like myself – with the opportunity to be a part of the content creation for our school’s website, share our passions, connect with special guest speakers and grow through other experiences such as the Romero exclusive, Disney Poster Design challenge for the MCU film Eternals which Mr. Raterman of the Arts Department is co-leading.

Each student who decided to join this club has their own interests and talents that they want to grow and share. For me, my passion is writing.

I’ve always been fond of writing and fell in love with words from my interests in books. As a child, I always had a book in hand and became immersed in all of the various worlds that came to life in each book I read. With these worlds, I was and continue to be deeply intrigued at a writer’s capability to create places that go beyond any figment of my imagination.

For most of my life, I found the very idea of books to be fascinating, but I only saw them as a means of enjoyment or education; not as something that I could actually create myself. This thought changed last year in Grade 9 all because of my English class.

At the time, I was working away on my final assignment for my Academic English course. The ISU for our entire class was to create a Google Slides presentation applying all of what we learnt, to a specific topic and creating our own short story inspired by Greek mythology. When I finally completed this last assignment, I realized how much fun I had during the process of developing the idea of my own short story and seeing it come to life. At that very moment, I came to the revelation that I can actually write and be like all of the other writers who were a major source of inspiration to me.

Now a couple of months later, I’m a “Visionary” who is so thrilled at the chance to share my passion with everyone at school and whomever may visit this website.

My bi-weekly column is titled “Words by Melissa.”

Basically, every other Wednesday throughout this school year, I will be writing an article of interest and/or sharing school news. From hard-hitting news, to Romero stories, to popular culture and more, “Words by Melissa” will provide me the opportunity to share stories that I find interesting, provocative and inspiring.

My first article launches Wednesday October 27.

Until Wednesday,


Melissa Andrade