Eager to come to campus after time away, or for the first time, students across the 5Cs found that spontaneous businesses left them with more than just some extra change. With teams working together, customers rallying and morale raised, two businesses quickly became hubs for communities.
A whole new can of fuzzy worms: Kate Katen SC ’25 is starting from the ground up
When fuzzy worm memes spiraled through the internet last year, Kate Katen SC ’25 wanted to buy a few for her room. After going on Amazon, she was disappointed to find the googly-eyed worms were only sold in bulk. She didn’t let that stop her, though: A few clicks later, Katen had ordered 200 worms.
Katen had only ever wanted a few worms. Soon, she started selling them at her high school. Administration quickly cracked down on her business, so she went underground, discreetly selling worms by the dollar at her locker.
Fast forward to her first month at Scripps College, and Katen immediately recognized the school’s demographic as “worm people.” So, she repeated her process. This time, she received 200 worms in the mailroom and opened up the nearly overflowing box in her dorm room.
“I remember opening them, and I was like ‘there they are,’” Katen said. “These are the lads. I’ve been waiting for them.”
Katen opened shop in her dorm room, with a rainbow of worms spread out on her desk. She began promoting her $1-a-worm business on her Instagram story, encouraging her friends and early customers to repost her worm photos and information. She now carries the worms with her everywhere she goes, from her Italian class to her rollerskating trips.
“My only Venmo history is just like ‘worm,’ ‘worm,’ ‘worm’ with dollar charges for worms,” Katen said.
Seeing Katen’s worm promotion on Instagram, Laskin PZ ’25 immediately wanted one. They thought it would be a great opportunity to get some decor, see more of the Scripps campus and meet Katen in person. Laskin ended up buying seven worms, each in a different color.
“Being a small business owner in this day and age is really difficult.” —Kate Katen SC ’25
“I was impressed that there were so many worms in one room,” they said. “I would definitely recommend it to my friends to buy a worm. They’re very cute and simple items.”
After selling nearly 70 worms, Katen acknowledged she had to make a few changes. The sporadic orders created an irregular yet constant flow of customers, and she didn’t want to disrupt her roommates. Katen now has set worm hours — similar to office hours — for customers to drop by her dorm. With 130 worms left to sell, Katen said she sees herself as a small business owner and that obstacles are bound to arise.
While she’s enjoying selling the worms she has now, she doesn’t anticipate acquiring and selling another batch until next semester.
“Being a small business owner in this day and age is really difficult,” Katen said. “I’m very passionate about selling my worms because I don’t know what I’m going to do if the semester is over and I have 100 worms left.”
Scripps students bring in the cheddar with Munch 5C
Sitting in the study room of their dorm at 8 p.m., Stella Markey SC ’24 and Olivia Shrager SC ’24 were craving a good snack. They scrolled through their phones, but every restaurant and grocery store was either closed or ridiculously overpriced. They wanted something nostalgic, a comfort food — something like grilled cheese.
Since that night a few weeks ago, Markey and Shrager established their business, Munch 5C, which offers warm, late-night grilled cheese sandwiches to be delivered to the doors of any Scripps student.
“It felt like this astronomical pipe dream,” Shrager said. “Then a couple weeks later, all of a sudden, it was a thing.”
For two humanities students, the world of entrepreneurship was foreign. They worried that taking on a business in their first semester of on-campus learning would be overwhelming and a failure. Still, they couldn’t stop thinking about the potential of the perfect study snack.
So, they set off. Shrager designed posters and created their social media account. On their new Instagram, they followed all the Scripps students they knew and then started reaching out to the ones they didn’t. The duo went to the Montclair Target to buy their ingredients (which they vehemently refuse to reveal).
Within the next 24 hours, they were in the kitchen. Suddenly, orders started flowing in at the tailend of their set hours, and the kitchen began to buzz.
“We were in the kitchen and it was hot and it was stressful,” Shrager said. “But looking from the outside, everyone we talked to the next day was like, ‘Oh my God, your grilled cheeses were delicious.’”
While the duo said they have a few things they want to work on, they saw their soft launch as a wild success. So much positive feedback came flowing in that they decided to go forward with another late night grilled cheese delivery event this month.
Jaela Alvarez SC ’23 bought sandwiches from both events after seeing their promotions on Instagram. She was looking for a study snack and their delivery sealed the deal for her.
“I really like grilled cheese, and it said that it was going to be delivered,” Alvarez said. “It’s like, ‘Well, late night snack during studying, of course I want that.’”
Markey and Shrager attribute much of their success to their focus on collaboration. The two have a strong friendship, after meeting online in the fall of 2020 before both deciding to take gap semesters and joining a study abroad program that took them to France. While they loved exploring together, with lockdown in place, many of the restaurants were closed. In between language classes, the two spent much of their time cooking comfort dishes from home. Cooking brought the two closer as friends, and they hope it has the same effect on the 5Cs.
“I feel like food brings people together,” Markey said. “One girl was like, ‘The grilled cheese made our night,’ and that’s really happy.”
Markey and Shrager don’t want to stop with the classic grilled cheese sandwich. They have big ideas of developing further flavor profiles or extending the menu beyond just grilled cheeses.
Outside of the kitchen, they want to expand their delivery to include all 5Cs, a plan their company name alludes to. Beyond the food, they also want to make an app, something they hope a Harvey Mudd College student could help out with.
“It’s honestly really nice and helpful being on the college campus starting a business,” Markey said, “because you’re surrounded by so many interesting, smart people who all have such different talents.”
Editor’s note: Olivia Shrager SC ’24 is a photographer for TSL.