When the COVID-19 lockdown first took effect in March 2020, CSUDH student Alexandra Carrasco suddenly found herself stuck at home with a lot of extra time on her hands. She decided to put that time to good use, building a customized computer keyboard for herself. In the months since, she’s been able to turn those skills into a fledgling business, creating custom keyboards for clients by hand.
Carrasco, a junior majoring in business administration with an entrepreneurship concentration, first became interested in “mechanical keyboards” when she was still in high school. “Mechanical keyboards have a physical switch in them,” Carrasco explains, “so when you press it, it actually hits a switch, and you can feel that.”
Carrasco, who also plays on the CSUDH Esports Association “League of Legends” team, says, “People generally prefer mechanical keyboards because of the physical feel. It’s also a performance issue for gaming. Often, the key press is much quicker and smoother than with a traditional keyboard, which provides a quicker reaction time for the user. The switches are more reliable and durable. There’s also less chance of accidentally hitting the incorrect key.”
From the age of 16, Carrasco was a regular on Internet forums and communities devoted to discussing mechanical keyboards. “Back then, there were only about 10 of us who had ever heard of them,” she laughs.
When the pandemic hit and the community was hit with stay-at-home directives, Carrasco suddenly found that she had to time to pursue her hobby more directly. “Despite knowing so much about mechanical keyboards, I had never tried to build one. When the lockdown started, I was able to get a soldering iron and all the required parts, and I built my first mechanical keyboard by hand.”
Carrasco loved the experience, so cajoled her mother into letting her create a custom keyboard for her. “She’s a writer, so it was really important to her that it feels really nice, and it’s artsy and premium and cute,” says Carrasco. “I really enjoyed the process of going through it with her and selecting the case, switches, the features the motherboard would have, and even the key tabs that go on top. I had a really good time working with her, and thought, ‘Wow, I should keep doing this.’”
She soon scaled up the operation, setting up a website (awckeyboards.com) and Instagram account (@Awckeebs) devoted to creating custom keyboards for customers. She’s currently processing several orders a month, sourcing parts and building every aspect of the keyboards by hand. From order to delivery, it typically takes her about a month to create each one.
Carrasco recently met with David Ochi, executive director of the CSUDH Innovation Incubator, who gave her some helpful tips on making her business more profitable. While she may one day expand her keyboard business even further, for now Carrasco is happy where she’s at.
“I’m really enjoying having it as a bit of a pet project,” she says. “I can take the stuff I’m learning in my classes and put it into this project and see how it works out in the real world. In my entrepreneurial finance class, where we have a big project that we present at the end for investors, so I’m using my business for that class because I already have everything set up!”
“It’s something I really enjoy working on. Eventually, if this does become something I could do full-time, that would be really cool, but I’m not depending on it. It’s mostly just something I’m doing for fun right now.”