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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Texas State alumni show passion in business ownership


Studio art alumna Mikayla McDonough works on ceramic pieces for her small business Catnip Studios. 

Catnip Studios was created by Mikayla McDonough, a studio art alumna, in the wake of COVID-19 after she lost her job due to the pandemic. After gaining a surplus of unemployment money from government stimulus checks, she decided to put the money to good use in a way that could benefit her future.
She started off by selling her art to friends, and after slowly gaining popularity she started selling on a bigger platform. By going to the San Marcos Farmers Market and other local pop-ups where she could interact with her customers in person, McDonough created a successful business.
Growing up McDonough was always very artistic. She said that as a toddler she was known to draw on the walls and take costumes, clothes and shoes and upcycle them to her liking. In high school, McDonough was introduced to ceramics and instantly fell in love with the art and decided to pursue art in college.
“Getting my degree in art at Texas State helped me launch my business,” McDonough said. “I was getting back in touch with those artist roots and being able to make a product that’s really consumable is really great for my own professional art practice as well.”
When starting her business, McDonough knew she wanted to incorporate her cat Keiko into the name somehow. The name Catnip Studios is not only a homage to her cat but a metaphor for something that sparks joy in a person’s life like her products.
Catnip Studios products consist of jewelry, home decor and ceramics with products like wall art, earrings, mugs and more. McDonough has made Catnip Studios into her full-time job and she plans to create a more online presence in the future to take her work nationwide.
“I’ve always been a super self-starter. I don’t really like I like to do things my way. I have like really bad ADHD brain,” McDonough said. “So it’s helpful for someone like me to, you know, be the person holding myself accountable and it really just gives me so much more joy, like working for myself and doing the art projects that I want to do rather than working for someone else on the side, which is what I was so used to.”
Maria Sierra, an education alumna, and her husband Rene Arroyo started their business Balanced Nutrition through Herbalife Nutrition in 2015. Their business first started as a storefront out of their home, but after the business got more popular they decided to open up a shop Oct. 25, 2021.
Sierra taught at San Marcos public schools on and off over the span of ten years, but after Covid-19 she decided to quit altogether. She missed in-person contact and being around the children and it wasn’t the same after the pandemic. Although she had stopped teaching Sierra still has a passion for helping others and still wants to utilize her passion in her everyday life, and she does so through Balanced Nutrition.
Before using the distributor, Herbalife Nutrition, Sierra and Arroyo were in a place where they didn’t feel confident with themselves now, Sierra has lost 65 pounds and Arroyo has lost 30 pounds and they say they both feel happier and healthier than ever.
“Rene and I got into the business and completely out of not even knowing what we were doing. We were completely out of shape. Sierra said. “We were in a really bad health situation. And we knew we need to do something about it. And so we got into nutrition and we started you know, working on ourselves losing weight and finding new ways.”
After losing weight Sierra and Arroyo have grown passionate about helping others find themselves in the ways that they have.
Sierra and Arroyo feel fortunate and blessed to have the business, and just want to continue helping others and the community after all the help they have received from others. Every month they have sponsored a non-profit organization and have given back to the community by giving every tip earned that month to that non-profit.
“I absolutely love what we do,” Arroyo said. ”You know, we love helping people and we love helping the community.”
Balanced Nutrition is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers healthy meal replacement shakes, sugar-free teas, iced protein coffees and gluten-free baked goods. They also have a free fit camp, a Sunday morning running club and will sometimes have Zumba classes. Sierra and Arroyo are passionate about providing ways to better people’s health for those who are willing to come out.
CEO of J&M Jewelry, Cory Moore, exercise sports science alumnus, founded J&M jewelry in 2005 while he was a student at Texas State. Already having previous experience with managing and creating businesses he took on the challenge of creating another business J&M Jewelry.
On a trip to Israel with his now wife, Moore was introduced to the jewelry industry through his wife’s cousins who were involved with jewelry manufacturing and decided to part in the jewelry by starting his own business. Through prioritizing making a professional website nearly 20 years ago when e-commerce wasn’t as popular, and building business relationships J&M was able to grow into the business that it is today.
J&M Jewelry offers marketing, and event marketing, as well as jobs on the administrative side of the business, and the design and manufacturing side only for Texas State students.
Christi Cuesta, a marketing senior, was a marketing intern for J&M over the summer and got hands-on experience in sales and marketing ads through various platforms. Throughout her internship, she has liked how connected Moore has been with the company. Even as the CEO and founder he would take time out of his schedule to offer his guidance to help her truly understand her task.
“I’m so excited about J&M,” Cuesta said. “Because the company is great and I’ve just learned so much so I can’t wait to see other students learn from them as well.”
Cuesta is now working part-time for J&M Jewelry and will be working full-time after she graduates in Dec.
Moore offers internship opportunities for Texas State students because of the lack of access to the entrepreneurship that he experienced as a student. He believes that the pathways for many students are corporate ones and he wanted to provide a platform where students could learn and be encouraged to start their own businesses.
“Everybody that has been successful, has been given some type of assistance somewhere down the line. And that’s true for me and that’s true for everyone else,” Moore said. “So I think that it’s important to continue to invest in those younger generations and give back, you know, to those students where I can”
For more information about Catnip Studios visit its Instagram @catnip.studios.
For more information about Balanced Nutrition visit its Facebook at Balanced Nutrition San Marcos.
For more information about J&M Jewelry visit its website at https://www.jandmjewelry.com/who-we-are.

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  • Maria Sierra and her husband Rene Arroyo smile in front of their shop Balanced Nutrition.

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