Jun. 26, 2021

PANDEMIC PURSUITS: How six entrepreneurs launched businesses during lockdown

Nishali Allen, Technical Design ’19

Nishali Allen

Nishali Allen turned to a favorite pastime to give her mind a break. She’d lost her job as a stylist when the pandemic hit, and her mother was facing heightened health risks working in a nursing home. Beset by worries, Allen found solace at her sewing machine.

“Everyone has their safe space,” Allen says. “That definitely was mine. I felt like if I wanted to have some type of control, I could just turn my sewing machine on, listen to my music, and sew for hours.”

Bucket hats became Allen’s balm. She took pleasure in the details, her eyes peeled for puckers, popped threads, and the slightest misshape. With vibrant colors and geometric prints, Allen aimed to evoke the exuberant style of the ’90s, her favorite fashion era. In May, she launched Phoeline (pronounced ‘feline’), named for her favorite mythological creature (the phoenix) and her zodiac sign (Leo).

Allen’s first sale went to a buyer in Texas. Nearly a year later, she has customers across the country checking in for new designs. She’s applying for local business grants and creating a five-year plan that includes a small boutique—a path she never would’ve predicted for herself.         

“I just thought it was going to be a little hobby,” she says. “For me, it’s been a surprise success.”