Rip, plop, and clink are not the sounds some Americans think of when soda comes to mind. However, that’s exactly what Kent State senior biology student Jeshua Zeglen hears when he opens his favorite pop, Ramune, a lychee flavored Japanese import. The drink contains a glass marble, which Zeglen pushes into the neck of the bottle before drinking it to activate carbonation.
He is a frequent customer at HOME Markets, a small shop in Acorn Alley, which sells international foods. Kent State student Genia Kollie founded the market in 2012. It offers unique snack experiences to customers like Zeglen.
“I think cultural diversity is something you should take advantage of when you can. As much as I would like to travel the world, sometimes the best I can do is go to an international market,” Zeglen said.
The store is about more than exotic treats, though. Kollie said entrepreneurship offers a sense of ownership and excitement that working for a corporation does not provide.She is succeeding as an entrepreneur, a way of making a living that more and more Americans are finding to be unsustainable.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of new business “births” in America is at an all-time low. At Kent State, however, Blackstone Launchpad helps students like Kollie form their businesses. She opened HOME Markets with Launchpad’s help. Launchpad is a program found at Kent State and other universities around the country. It offers meetings, mentoring, and workshops to faculty and students who want assistance.
In addition to Kollie’s market, Launchpad has helped students begin nonprofits, clothing companies, and a skin care line, Belle’s Healing Solution, which Kent business student Gavin Ursich founded. After Ursich decided to begin a business, he knew where to look for enterprise ideas, his childhood kitchen.
Ursich remembers his mother mixing skin cream and giving it to friends and family members. He decided to expand on his mother’s work and manufacture lip, healing, and baby balm. Ursich sells his products to local shops including the Kent Co-op and to enterprises as far from his home as New York City.
Like Kollie, Ursich credits Launchpad for helping him market his products. Stacy Banks, Ursich’s Launchpad adviser, aided him in the design of Belle’s first marketing push.
“We mailed press kits to 33 newspapers and magazines. After the mailing, Veg World contacted us, and we were in their holiday gift guide,” Ursich said.
Veg World is not Belle’s only brush with a national publication. Ursich has also bought ad space in Pregnancy and New Born magazine. While he has been successful in getting Belle’s on store shelves, he said being a young entrepreneur comes with challenges.
“Being taken seriously or the fear of not being taken seriously [is difficult.] Acting professional isn’t enough; some [store owners] don’t believe you are serious,” Ursich said.
Entrepreneurship is also popping up in Rockwell Hall at The Fashion School. Senior Eliza Svon began working as a freelance designer while completing her degree in Fashion Design. During the summer after her junior year, she created a brown stretch pleather pantsuit for Kelsey Higginbotham, a hair stylist at the Rush by Dino Palmieri salon. Higginbothamcommissioned the suit for the Wella Trend Vision hair show in Los Angeles, July 18.
Another fashion entrepreneur, Via Stacey, sold jackets to Roe Green, Kent alumna, philanthropist, and benefactor of the Roe Green Center for the School of Theatre and Dance, after Green attended a student fashion show at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
“Roe came to the annual show and my orchid jacket was on display. She saw it and asked for one,” Stacey said.
Stacey sold Green two flowing jackets with the prints of a large orchid on each, one a combination primarily of reds and purples and another exhibiting a mixture of blues.
Both Stacey and Svon said they plan to continue pursuing fashion design and working to sell their creations. Svon said she plans on going to Launchpad for help when she is ready to dedicate more time to the business aspect of her designs, a plan Kollie and others have found to be helpful.
“Launchpad and the university provided me with a large variety of resources and people to network and support me as the entrepreneur and HOME Markets as a business,” Kollie said.