Kent State College of Business Administration grad celebrates cultures with her T-shirt venture; interest in entrepreneurship grows on campuses
Danielle Flemister noticed there were a lot of T-shirt designs, but not many that celebrated the various cultures of fellow students at Kent State University.
“I was just noticing there was a lack of apparel for certain ethnic groups,” said Flemister, 23, who is graduating this summer from Kent. “I have African friends, anything with their flag colors, they would get it,” even if the design had nothing to do with their home countries.
A T-shirt business was born — one that is an award-winner.
Flemister’s T-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts boast designs inspired by flags and symbols of various countries. She dubbed her business Dunya Jeane.
Dunya means “world” in several languages, she explained.
The business caught the attention of officials of Kent’s College of Business Administration, where Flemister studied. This spring, the college, along with Cleveland Connects Magazine, presented Flemister with the campus’ first Rising Student Entrepreneur Award.
The award was created as Kent State and schools across the country enroll a growing number of students interested in entrepreneurship. As of the beginning of spring semester, Flemister was among 185 students majoring in entrepreneurship at KSU.
In late 2012, Flemister, from Cleveland, began her business. She hawks her shirts at various on- and off-campus cultural events and sells them at the campus bookstore.
She also sells the shirts online at www.dunyajeane.com. The Jeane in Dunya Jeane is a nod to Flemister’s middle name, Jean. (She added an “e” because she didn’t want anyone thinking the company sold jeans.)
She offers 10 different designs. One of her shirts — the “Diaspora” — features an outline of a woman’s head and Afro. The shirt is red, black and green, the colors of the Pan-African flag, also known as the African-American flag. Another shirt — red and yellow — boasts a Chinese dragon with a tail that wraps around to the back of the shirt.
Flemister called the Rising Student Entrepreneur Award “a big boost.”
“I appreciate the encouragement,” she said. “The award is inspiring me to keep pushing. ... And I know that I have people behind me who are noticing and wishing me the best.”
Flemister, along with other students, originally created Dunya Jeane as an entrepreneurship class project. Market research included talking with representatives of Kent State’s Office of Global Education about the school’s diverse student population.
After she graduates, Flemister — with a double major in entrepreneurship and marketing — wants to do something “entrepreneurial or in marketing.” And she plans to continue finding venues at which to sell her shirts. She’d also like to attract a fashion merchandiser who would carry her designs.
Five years ago, Kent State became the first Northeast Ohio university to offer an undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship. Today, Lake Erie College and Ashland University also offer the major.
Student interest, coupled with state efforts to promote entrepreneurship, were key factors behind KSU’s decision to launch the major in 2009, said Pamela Grimm, chair of the KSU Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
These days, students “see workplaces that don’t necessarily have a lot of loyalty to their employees,” she said, “There are more students who want to be masters of their own destiny.”
Student interest in entrepreneurship is also growing at the University of Akron.
Robert Chalfant, director of the UA Fitzgerald Institute for Entrepreneurship Studies, counts about 50 students minoring in the subject.
The school’s entrepreneurship courses, Chalfant said, give students “a big picture about virtually any business. ... Even if they don’t intend to start their own business, they learn about all the aspects of running a business, sales and marketing ... a little bit of accounting.”
He noted that students seem especially to like the creative-thinking aspect of his classes, noting that about a quarter of the students in the entrepreneurship classes are not business majors.