This Student-Owned Business Sells Planners that Make Me Want to Plan Out Every Second of My Day
Many students have on-campus jobs or internships or work in the surrounding area. Some students even have their own businesses. I spoke with Cai Rodrigues, senior psychology major and owner of Black Period Planners, who talked to me about how she got started with an idea she had, and important lessons she’s learned along the way.
Explain what the Black Period Planner is, your inspiration for it, as well as how you produced all the details.
Our main product is the Black Period Planner. The idea behind it was the minority woman. The planner comes with a set of stickers, as well as an affirmation and reading list card. The affirmations are about self-confidence, ambition, all that fun stuff. The reading list is composed of 12 books that are all written by Black women — you know, to learn more about your culture. We also have task pads, notepads, and journals.
What goes into planner making? What’s it like coming up with designs, the materials you need to pick out, etc.?
Oof, it’s a very long process! I started the business at the beginning of quarantine, and everything didn’t come out until this summer, so it took over a year.
The first thing that happens is, the ideas come floating in, and then you have to put those ideas on paper: How do you want the lines to look, the thickness of the lines, the thinness of the lines, what fonts you want, how do you want them laid out, do you want them overlapping or not overlapping, etc. It’s a lot, and that’s just for the template.
Then, you either hire someone to do the dates, because it’s very tedious work, or you do it yourself, which is what I did.
For every month, there’s a picture of a minority woman doing something related to that month. For that, I reached out to someone who does illustrations. And after you have the planner completed, you need to get it printed. That’s when I reached out to different vendors, and the one I liked best was the one I went with.
As a full-time student, how do you find the time to manage a business that involves fulfilling orders, printing papers, designing, etc.? Is there some schedule that you follow?
Conveniently enough, my business is all about time management. I use that to get the most out of my time. What works for me is color coding, surprisingly. If you look at my planner, it looks like a rainbow. Every class has a color, my job has a color, my business has a color, self-care has a color. I also use my task pad a lot, as well as the day planner. For days when I have to do a lot, I carry [the day planner] instead of my entire [year] planner.
It’s definitely a lot. I’m not going to say I get it right all the time, because my life is messy, but it definitely helps.
What has been your favorite part in running a business?
Seeing how other people have been reacting to it — it has been an overwhelming amount of love. It’s cool to see something that I poured my heart into be beneficial to other people, as they genuinely enjoy it, [and] spread the word.
On the flip-side, what’s a challenge that you’re facing?
My biggest challenge right now is getting the word out. I still have a ton of planners that I’m hoping to sell. The marketing side of this has been a little hard for me. There’s social media, but everyone is on social media. [Getting] the right type of attention is hard these days. There’s Facebook ads and Instagram ads, but they can get costly.
In the future, do you plan to expand what you sell? What other stuff do you envision yourself selling?
The official name of the business is Cai & Co. The intent with that was to have Cai & Co. as the foundation and have multiple extensions within it. The first one is the Black Period Planner, but, God willing, if everything goes according to plan, we will be expanding far and beyond just planners.
What is a piece of advice you would give to students who are looking to start their own business?
The thing that has helped me the most is having connections. Find someone who is knowledgeable about business in general, has started up in a similar way that you have —and, most importantly, envision yourself in the future where they are now.
Anything else you would like to add?
Our planners and all of our products are actually about self-care and self-love and immersing yourself in your culture. I hope that if anyone gets anything out of this, it’s that [you should] love yourself and take care of yourself and your mental health, because it’s the most important thing you have.
And one last piece of advice?
There are going to be times where you just want to quit. You just want to give up, like, "forget it, it's not for me." But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so just keep working at it. You’ve gotten this far — why stop?