Student entrepreneur creates holiday baskets and opportunities

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Second-year Delta College student Daja Cotton poses with gift baskets she made to sell. Photo by Hannah Workman.
Second-year Delta College student Daja Cotton poses with gift baskets she made to sell. Photo by Hannah Workman.

Since she was a child, first-year Delta College student Daja Cotton has had a mind constantly churning with ideas.

Cotton can recall displaying signs she was destined to be an entrepreneur as early as elementary school. She remembers coming home one day with enough money to buy ice cream for her and her siblings. Her mother initially questioned where the money came from.

“She thought I stole the money,” Cotton said. “But I was selling Silly Bandz she bought me, priced at four for a dollar.”

She attempted to capitalize off of the product’s popularity amongst her peers.

“I was thinking, ‘If you bought some of these bracelets, how many would you want that would be worth your money?’”

A gift basket made by second-year Delta College student Daja Cotton in Stockton, Calif. on Oct. 4, 2019. Photo by Hannah Workman.

Cotton paid close attention to trends in school to ensure she would sell items her classmates were interested in.

“There was a time when people would duct tape roses to the ends of pens,” she said. “Once I saw everybody liked that, I figured out how to make them myself and sold them.”

Cotton’s ability to analyze trends and profit from them came from within, like a natural instinct.

“Nobody taught me how to do it,” she said.

As Cotton got older, she started branching out into different fields. She once organized a bake sale in middle school, crafting cupcakes inspired by popular characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to entice classmates.

“As my mind grew, my ideas did, too,” Cotton said. “I realized I was an entrepreneur because I came up with so many ideas for things to sell.”

Her mother, Stephanie Cotton, can attest to this.

“Daja’s good at a lot of things so it can be hard for her to stay focused on one idea because one idea triggers another, which triggers another,” she said. “It just keeps going.”

Cotton’s current venture and most lucrative idea to date wasn’t initially thought of as a way to make money, but as a gift for her mother.

“I had made a gift basket for her,” she said. “I went to a bunch of different places to get random things that fit her personality.”

Cotton found enjoyment in putting the basket together. She thinks back to when she first presented her mother with the basket and how surprised she was, as well as the interest from her other family members.

“Everybody just fell in love with it and then started saying, ‘I want one of those for my birthday,’” she said.

Cotton started gifting family members baskets for every holiday, but didn’t think of selling them until her father suggested she do so.

This past year, she started posting pictures of her gift baskets on social media and began to receive business inquiries.

When new customers contact her, she asks them a series of questions to get to know their interests and then tailor-makes a basket based on their answers. She wants each basket to feel personal.

“The baskets are based off of the individual’s personality so they’re never the same,” she said. “They’re always different and I always have some fresh, new idea.”

Cotton envisions this as a business she can grow over time. She has hopes of opening a store called Dae’s Basket Buildings, where customers can pick the items they want to go into their baskets and then watch her arrange the basket in front of them.

“I never had to worry about where she’s going to go,” Stephanie Cotton said. She believes her daughter’s creativity will take her far.