With so much happening in every nook and cranny of a college campus, it is often difficult for students to find something they can truly call their own. In an effort to escape the neverending noise and find their own creative outlet, Ole Miss student entrepreneurs Jordan Bullock and Nick Castellanos launched Neon Ditch, a custom sticker company aimed at expressing their customers’ unique personalities.
Bullock and Castellanos, both sophomore economics majors, became close friends at the beginning of their freshman year. Fostering each other’s creative outlets to help fill their time, their interest in sketching and painting really began when Castellanos left his home and Ole Miss behind to battle an undisclosed health issue.
“I think everyone should have some artistic hobby to decompress with,” Castellanos said. “It could be anything, but people really benefit from having at least one thing like that in their lives. Any kind of art becomes something you can really focus on, no matter what’s going on in your life.”
Both unaware of the possibility of starting their own business, Castellanos urged Bullock to attempt drawing as well. Taking his advice, Bullock decided to design a sticker for herself and knew she had to show the finished product to the person who encouraged her from the beginning. With that, their idea to launch Neon Ditch — a reference to Oxford’s nickname, “Velvet Ditch,” — was born via a long-distance facetime call between Bullock in Mississippi and Castellanos in California.
“Last semester after Nick moved out to California we were facetiming, and I showed him a sticker I had made for fun,” Bullock said. “It was his idea to turn it into something bigger.”
With everything on campus, from laptops to water bottles, adorned with colorful designs and meaningful quotes, Bullock and Castellanos knew that stickers were coveted items for college students, but they could never seem to find ones that represented their own, unique styles. They knew other students felt the same way, so they decided to combine their artistic and entrepreneurial spirits.
“Stickers are just a fun and easy way to express individuality and creativity,” Bullock said. “I could never find any stickers that I actually liked enough to buy because I felt as if they weren’t ‘me’ enough.”
Castellanos, the primary artist for Neon Ditch, finds inspiration through psychedelic music and skate culture, with intentions of bringing his unique style to life. He enjoys incorporating bright, neon colors and fluid, soothing designs into his artwork to truly represent his personality.
“I like playing with shapes and working to produce a flowing effect in my drawings,” Catellanos said. “I think it’s important to make stickers that make people feel good or help them take life less seriously.”
Despite being inspired by their own personalities, the owners’ main goal is to create art that truly represents each unique customer. They work one-on-one with every customer to bring the customer’s imagination to life. With the option of custom sticker designs, there is no limit on what the customer can request. Whether a customer wants a sticker of his or her favorite pet or a tangible replica of a favorite memory, Castellanos can create any personal design.
“The best and most unique part about Neon Ditch is the ability I have as a customer to give the artist feedback as they are working on the product,” customer Jess Cooley said. “The company has something for every customer, and if not, they’ll make it. They’re great communicators throughout the process.”
After the launch of Neon Ditch on social media, the word about their custom designs spread quickly. As new business owners, they struggled at first to balance the amount of orders they were taking, their full course loads, and any problems they were facing in their daily lives.
“The success truly felt amazing, but it just wasn’t sustainable at first,” Bullock said. “We’ve since rebalanced and are extremely fortunate to get to do what we love while learning how to run a business along the way.”
Even with the struggles that came with opening a new company, they believe that art has the power to play a huge role in people’s lives and appreciate being able to bring positivity and individuality to each of their customers.
“It is kind of surreal knowing that people like something that we made,” they said. “Our hope with Neon Ditch is that everyone can find at least one sticker that represents them and their style.”
To see their designs, visit @neonditch on Instagram. Customer stickers start at $6.