Students, Business Owners, or Both? Meet the Golden Flashes Paving their Way as Entrepreneurs
Kent State Golden Flashes excel in a range of activities, and some students are forging their own paths by owning and operating small businesses during their college years. With endless opportunities and resources at their fingertips, Kent State students have found success as entrepreneurs across a range of industries.
Kent State offers an array of groups and services to support entrepreneurs in the university community, including the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation and LaunchNET, an entrepreneurial resource center for students, faculty and staff.
LaunchNET helps new entrepreneurs through all phases of their business creation, providing skills and knowledge of how to start a successful business, said Tabitha Messmore, the interim assistant director of LaunchNET
“The core of what we do is one-on-one advising to help students, whether they have an idea for a business or are looking to grow their business,” Messmore said. “I call myself a business therapist at times because sometimes the most important thing is just having someone to listen to your idea, support you and help you figure out how to make it happen.”
She says that LaunchNET can be a beneficial resource for all students, not just entrepreneurs.
“Students from all kinds of backgrounds and disciplines have great ideas,” Messmore said. “Even if you’re in a major that has nothing to do with entrepreneurship, don’t let that stop you. We can walk you through the business side of things and put you in contact with people who will help you; the most important thing is having a great idea and being passionate about it.”
Fashion Design Alumna
Capsule Collective started as a passion project for fashion design alumna Mattney Yates. After losing her grandmother last year, she decided to use her grandmother’s old jeans to create a special keepsake for her cousin. Next thing she knew, her idea had flourished into a business.
Yates creates custom denim jackets from repurposed materials. Capsule Collective has a ready-to-wear line, as well as an option for fully customizable jackets with materials from the buyer. Yates says that using pre-loved denim creates both a personal and sustainable piece of clothing, especially for those who have lost a loved one.
Yates has worked closely with LaunchNET and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (CEBI) throughout college, which she says gave her the tools and skills to run a business. She was recently awarded third place in the annual CEBI pitch event, a Shark Tank-style competition that aims to help grow startups created by students, with total winnings of $20,000.
“It can be overwhelming sometimes because we have so many opportunities at our fingertips at Kent State, but it pushes you to new limits,” Yates said. “It’s so important to keep your eyes open and take advantage of what’s available here.”
Yates hopes to grow the brand in the future to include more ready-to-wear items with a focus on sustainability.
“Something that is so important to me, and especially in fashion, is sustainability,” Yates said. “As a designer I believe that I should only put things out into the world that are innovative, new and made sustainably.”
To check out Capsule Collective, go to https://thee-capsule-collective.myshopify.com.
Senior Journalism Major
Rachel Gross, a senior journalism student, created Rosebud Scrunchies in 2018 and has since completed over 600 scrunchie, mask and custom decor orders. The business was born out of Gross’ own love for scrunchies and grew throughout the pandemic to include new products.
Gross started Rosebud Scrunchies as a freshman at Kent State. She needed a creative outlet to help her get adjusted to college and moving away from home, and the first Rosebud scrunchie was created in her dorm room.
“It’s been so exciting to see how far my products have come and how much the brand has grown,” Gross said. “I started out in my dorm, just selling to friends and family, and now I’ve shipped orders to all but two U.S. states and even had some international orders.”
Gross says she’s taken some entrepreneurship courses outside of her major to gain skills and knowledge on building a successful business. Through the pandemic, she started making masks in addition to scrunchies and she plans to expand her product selection even further.
“Classes like Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Social Media Strategies have really helped me to understand the business world and how to build a brand for my company.” Gross said. “Looking forward, I want to grow outside of my current products and use social media to really build a brand around my business.”
Check out Gross’ Etsy Shop to see her scrunchie selection at https://www.etsy.com/shop/RosebudScrunchies.
Junior Digital Media Production Major
Ramone Hardy has always had a passion for photography and video production, but the connections and opportunities he gained at Kent State helped him to turn those passions into a business with RNH Productions.
Hardy, a junior digital media production major in the School of Media and Journalism, launched RNH Productions after gaining videography and photography experience in high school. The experience he has gotten at Kent State has given him additional tools and skills to grow his business.
“There’s no more satisfying feeling than being able to give a client their final video or pictures and seeing them absolutely love it,” Hardy said. “It’s definitely what fuels my fire.”
Last year, the Male Empowerment Network, an organization under the Student Multicultural Center (SMC), envisioned a docuseries to celebrate the organization’s 10-year anniversary. De’Von Gomez, a graduate assistant working for the SMC at the time, knew of Hardy’s skills and asked him to serve as the director and head videographer for the docuseries.
Hardy now works as the lead videographer for all of the SMC’s content, including a new series featuring women in leadership roles at Kent State called “She Leads,” along with working with Student Success Programs to create videos for Destination Kent State and other projects. He also works on projects for clients outside of the Kent State community.
“I have definitely grown personally and professionally since coming to Kent State,” Hardy said. “Being surrounded by so many different supportive people and having the opportunity to work as a director has helped me to be more extroverted and get out there and get what I want. Kent has given me the opportunity to make connections and network with as many people as possible.”
To see more of Hardy’s work, visit his website at https://rnhprod.com.
For Grace Irvin-Dillard, a College of Business Administration alumna, it all started with soap. As part of the entrepreneurship program, students must start their own business in order to graduate, and Irvin-Dillard’s small soap business has turned into a full body care brand, Touched By Grace (TBG) Body Care.
TBG Body Care offers all-natural, clean beauty and skin care products with an emphasis on sustainability. Irving-Dillard recently won first place in the CEBI pitch event, earning $10,000 to put toward her business.
“There's a big trend right now towards clean beauty and environmentally friendly products, and TBG puts sustainability at the forefront of what we do.” Irving-Dillard said. “When you get a product from me, it’s packed with biodegradable packing peanuts, including a sustainability card describing how to recycle your package and encouraging you to recycle the jars the products are in.”
Irvin-Dillard says she always knew her business would be prosperous; she has the drive and determination of a successful entrepreneur. However, she credits much of her business knowledge and growth to the support she’s received from Kent State.
“There are so many resources available for entrepreneurs at Kent State,” Dillard said. “Kent State has supported my journey so much. Being in the entrepreneurship program and just generally being a student here, we have so many opportunities to take advantage of.”
See Irvin-Dillard’s full line of TBG products at https://tbgbodycare.com.
Update: per her Instagram post, TBG will be closing at the end of 2021 as she persues other interests.
Special Education Alumna
For many people, the pandemic resulted in lots of time at home to pick up new hobbies, and special education alumna Sydney Rondeau in the School of Lifespan Development & Educational Sciences, was no exception. Rondeau, however, took her hobby to the next level when she decided to start a charcuterie board business.
Tova Charcuterie started in early 2020 and has since grown, even being featured on The Today Show in November. Rondeau creates unique boards and grazing tables for her customers and has done everything from breakfast boards to themed boards for holidays and other special occasions. While Rondeau started Tova with smaller boards and personalized boxes, she’s grown her selection to include a wider variety of boards for any occasion and party size.
“Lately I’ve been obsessed with making grazing tables, which is where I put craft paper down and do an entire table of charcuterie,” Rondeau said. “I enjoy those because I love accommodating bigger families. I come from a really large family, so I really love being able to offer that to bigger parties so that everyone is able to enjoy it.”
Rondeau, like many other students with small businesses, balances Tova Charcuterie with her classes, student organizations and an on-campus job. She says finding balance is probably the most important, but difficult aspect of running a business as a student.
“A lot of people who own a small business focus all of their time on that, and that's amazing, but I have another passion too,” Rondeau said. “I think as college students, if you're truly passionate about what you're studying and you really see a future in it you don't have to put one or the other on the back burner; you just have to find what balance works for you. There's no reason why we can't have more than one passion.”
To see Rondeau’s full selection or order online, visit https://www.tovaboards.com.
To learn more about LaunchNET, visit https://www.kent.edu/launchnet.