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Blue Streaks With a Side Hustle: Carleen Ellerbruch ‘22

Sophomore Carleen Ellerbruch learned how to sew at a young age, thanks to her grandmother’s inspiration. She developed a love for fashion, and with her mastery of sewing, began to make her own clothes. Carleen crafted rompers, shirts, and skirts by hand from pre-made patterns and fabrics. Last Spring, Carleen decided to pivot her entrepreneurial spirit to a homemade scrunchie business. She appropriately named it Designs by Carleen Marie.

Carleen found her inspiration for starting her own hair accessory business by scrolling through Instagram.

Ellerbruch said, “I saw some other Instagram pages with people making scrunchies; however, they were super gluing and not sewing them, which makes the scrunchie stiff.” She knew she could create a high-quality scrunchie with her own unique style, so she did, and Designs by Carleen Marie was born.

As a JCU student, member of Kappa Alpha Theta, and a mid-hitter for the JCU women’s volleyball team, juggling a business can be difficult.

“I don’t have much time or my sewing machine at school to work on the products. I mainly focus on producing more [during] my breaks. Some challenges I face have been keeping up with demand when I don’t have a lot of time to produce more. Playing volleyball and [being in a sorority] at school [has] created additional challenges,” she said.

Carleen does not let her busy schedule stand in the way of her business, though. While she makes most of the products herself, using her own patterns, she taught her mother how to sew so she could help Carleen make more products.

Designs by Carleen Marie offers hair accessories for everyone. While Carleen prefers pink tones and “floral patterns with a vintage flair,” she recognizes that everyone’s taste differs.

Currently, Designs by Carleen Marie operates in a section of the Salvage Yard in Fairview Park. Carleen also attends craft shows as well, when time allows.

When asked what advice she would give to students looking to start their own side-hustle, Carleen acknowledged the amount of work it takes to get started. She had to spend a significant amount of time creating in order to build up her inventory. “Don’t waste any opportunities,” Carleen says. “I got asked to attend a super small craft show last summer and a woman there loved my scrunchies and offered to sell them in her store.”

Carleen demonstrates the Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship program’s core values through her passion for the fashion industry, resilience when faced with a busy schedule, and her sense of creativity in all she does.

Get your own unique, hand-crafted hair accessory by checking out @designsbycarleen on Instagram.

If you are interested in discovering your passion, pursuing your passion, or starting or scaling your own business, reach out to Dr. Doan Winkel, Director of the Edward M. Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University, at or (216) 397–4605.

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