Kent State Entrepreneurship Major Finds Success with Hand-Stamped Jewelry Company
KENT, Ohio – For as long as she can remember, Lauren Hollis has enjoyed being an entrepreneur. Her love for entrepreneurship began as a young child as she made bookmarks from strips of paper and sold them door to door in her neighborhood. At the age of 12, she asked her parents to help her obtain a vendors’ license so she could sell handmade jewelry at a community art show.
“I have always loved being able to give people a product in exchange for money,” Hollis said. “I love the feeling of knowing that someone has a smile on their face when they receive something I made.”
It came as no surprise to her family and friends that Hollis, a Kent State senior, would eventually choose to major in entrepreneurship – although it took some time to find her path.
“In high school, I was very involved in sports. My sister is a professional golfer, and my brother is a scuba diver in Thailand. I remember thinking I didn’t have a ‘thing,’” she recalled. “During my freshman year in college, I started having the itch to start selling things again.”
During that time, Hollis recalls talking with a friend who had recently started an e-commerce company. The friend encouraged Hollis to come up with a product of her own. Once the pandemic hit, Hollis found herself with extra time on her hands and decided to open her own Shopify store. She ordered chains and charms wholesale and began making butterfly necklaces to sell – officially launching her business, PineappleLoop.
“I was watching how others would use social media and started doing giveaways, offering an ambassador program and coming up with unique ways to push my product,” Hollis said. “I was really excited the day I did $200 in sales.”
Things only went up from there for PineappleLoop. In December of her junior year, Hollis invested in tools to manufacture hand-stamped rings – a product that was trending on social media – just in time for the holidays. To capitalize on this trend, she started promoting her product on TikTok.
“I remember the day my first video went viral and received over a million views,” Hollis said. “The number of sales was more than I had done in the entire previous year.”
To fulfill the growing number of orders, Hollis’ father came to her sorority house in Kent to help her manufacture and ship orders. Her father, who Hollis says is her biggest mentor, had previously encouraged her to invest in a wholesale order of ring blanks so she had plenty of supplies to fill all the orders.
Finding a Home in the Entrepreneurship Program
When she returned to Kent for spring semester, Hollis took a step back from sales to focus on building her website and utilizing the resources at the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship to revamp her business plan. She entered – and won – the CEBIpitch competition in spring 2022. The three months of mentorship leading up to the pitch provided an invaluable learning experience.
“I came away from the pitch competition with the ability to speak in front of anyone. I now feel confident that I have the skill set to grow any idea I come up with post-college,” she said.
It wasn’t until her junior year that Hollis officially decided to major in entrepreneurship – but since she made the decision she hasn’t looked back.
“I feel like I have found my home here at Kent within this major. I didn’t know that this was what I needed but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.
Hollis credits college faculty and staff with helping her launch and grow her business.
“When I first changed my major in my junior year, I wasn’t very confident,” Hollis said. “Mary Heidler (associate lecturer of entrepreneurship) told me my company was a winner and encouraged me to perfect and grow it. She was a big help in encouraging me to continue with PineappleLoop.”
Hollis also credits marketing and entrepreneurship lecturers Ellen Daniels and Denise Lee, and John S. and Marlene J. Brinzo Center for Entrepreneurship manager Kayla Starta for providing support.
“It’s really inspiring that all of these are very empowering women and there’s such a strong group of women leading this program,” she said. “I have had such an unbelievable experience thanks to the faculty and staff at Kent State.”
Hollis plans to spend her senior year continuing to grow and promote PineappleLoop. Following a college trip to Austin, Texas, last spring, she secured an internship at one of the startups she visited there, Interplay Learning. She is using that experience, along with the knowledge gained in the entrepreneurship program, to take her business to the next level. Hollis plans to use her pitch winnings to purchase an engraving machine which will allow her to create more personalized products on a larger scale.
“Coming to Kent State, I received the best entrepreneurship experience possible,” Hollis said. “Entrepreneurship is more than a degree – it’s an experience. I am graduating with a company, and I had access to so many resources and opportunities outside the classroom.”