Startup reaches new heights using Instagram: How generation Z is changing the business game

A DIY project turned independent business thrives by relying on social media platforms

Malak Rahal outside of her childhood home where all Icey Angels products are made, May 31, 2021, Richmond Hill, Ont.  COURTESY Malak Rahal

Malak Rahal thought of her Instagram-run jewelry brand after customizing a pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes by adding Swarovski crystals to the iconic Nike swoosh.

Rahal, 20, created Icey Angels in January of 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving her Ontario college certificate in art and design at George Brown College in Toronto, Rahal craved an outlet to channel her creativity. 

Icey Angels is a gender-neutral jewelry brand heavily inspired by hip-hop culture and Middle Eastern design. The collection includes necklaces, anklets, rings, earrings, and bracelets. Nearly all of the pieces are handmade by Rahal. 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, but I knew I wanted to start,” said Rahal in a Zoom interview. 

Within the past year, the use of social media has increased. As of the beginning of 2020, there have been one billion active monthly users on Instagram. In recent years the use of social media itself has expanded. With this expansion young entrepreneurs have learned to create a name for themselves through Instagram. 

Rahal was inspired by her family to create Icey Angels. Her sister is a goldsmith, and her father is a carpenter.

“No one else works with me. I do everything,” Rahal said. “The graphic design, the website design, the product design, and the product.”

When the business first started, all orders were requested through Instagram’s direct messaging feature, which allows users to talk one on one with Rahal. This connection is one of the many reasons young Instagram users are drawn to smaller businesses.

“The good thing about Instagram is that you can message directly with whatever question you have and most of the time smaller businesses will answer,” said Aryana Zarin, a regular Icey Angels customer, in an interview.

Social media is a marketing strategy that many business shops had to learn to navigate especially at the start of the pandemic. This was one of few ways businesses could continue to promote their work. 

It was the personalization of the brand and the products that drew Ivneet Sira to Icey Angels as a customer. 

“There’s just more passion that you see in small businesses which makes it even better to buy from them,” Sira said.

Icey Angels has become a full-time job for Rahal. It is now her main source of income. Each piece takes a dedicated amount of time depending on the type of jewelry.

Malak Rahal making the Bahar necklace in her at-home workspace, Richmond Hill, Ont.

A pearl necklace can take up to an hour each. If the necklace is customized with a pendant, it can take even longer. Standard individual pieces can take almost an hour to design.

Despite the long work hours and physical demands, Rahal knew that Icey Angels was a way for her to showcase her creative talents. 

 “I was always into interior design and fashion,” Rahal said. “I love when I make something and it looks like I didn’t even make it. It doesn’t even look handmade.”

The growth of Icey Angels began to take off mid-pandemic and Instagram direct messages turned into website orders, but Rahal still felt like she could be doing more. The switch from in-person shopping to online shopping has changed drastically over the past year and has heavily impacted small businesses. 

“There are so many people creating businesses right now,” Rahal said. “The thing about creativity is it’s really hard to be original, so when it comes to social media you have to find a way to be different.”

As stores start to open again, and the world begins the process of moving toward normalcy, Rahal is excited to expand her business.

“I don’t want to just sell things, I also want to create a community,” Rahal said. “The main goal of Icey Angels is to show my creativity and for people to love it.”

About this article

Posted: Jun 16 2021 4:13 pm
Filed under: First-Timers Spotlight On Small Biz