Karson Tutt Gives Entrepreneurs Space

Karson Tutt, senior management major from Tuscola, Texas is a busy young entrepreneur. In addition to finishing her college courses, she is president of the Founders Club (part of the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy) and the owner of Karson’s, a jewelry and clothing boutique in downtown Abilene. Tutt began her business making jewelry that she sold online and to friends. In 2020, that small business expanded into a storefront with seven employees. Karson quickly experienced success in her new venture and saw an opportunity to start a new project that not only helped her own business but also helped other budding entrepreneurs. The Commons is a space connected to Karson’s that allows small businesses to set up a retail shop and have a chance to grow without the long-term contract and overhead fees normally associated with owning your own business or renting a space. The Commons features nine small businesses, two of which are run by current ACU students. Karson said that she was inspired to open this space because of a kindness that she was given when she was just starting out. “When I was in high school, my friend’s grandma let me do something similar in the front of her furniture consignment shop. She tracked all of my sales and checked everyone out, but I managed the inventory and advertising.” Having been inspired by Karson’s own experiences, she hopes the venture will benefit the vendors in many ways. “I am hoping it not only helps them make more sales but also gives them more exposure to customers who may not have known who they were before coming to The Commons. Between those 9 businesses and myself, we are encouraging tons of people from all different demographics to come to one place to shop.“

Being a highly involved ACU student and owner of two businesses, one might think that Tutt has her plate full managing both Karson’s and The commons but she says it’s gone well thus far. “It has been surprisingly smooth! There are a few things I wish I would’ve done before we opened (ex. signage outside, more social media content, etc.), but I can still get it done! All of the vendors have been so nice and are doing a great job with their booths.“

Karson received funding through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy when she won the Springboard Student Venture Competition in 2020. She credits COBA and the Griggs Center in helping her throughout her entrepreneurial journey saying, “They have given me an amazing community of like-minded business people. I love leaning into that community and I know even after I graduate that my friends and professors will be people who I can reach out to if I ever need it. I also won a pitch competition in April that helped fund my store. Getting that money helped me solidify my decision to open the store in the first place.“ 

Hearing about Karson’s vision for The Commons made us curious about what this opportunity is like for the ACU students who are able to participate in this new concept so we asked them a few questions to learn more about their experience.

Melissa Huffines is a junior youth and family ministry major from Abilene, Texas. Her business, Sideline Social Club, primarily provides fashionable purple and white game day clothing. She was inspired to start her business when talking with a former manager about her future dreams. That manager was able to help her start Sideline Social Club. One of Melissa’s biggest goals in being a part of The Commons is to learn how to manage a storefront as a college student. Melissa has already learned one lesson from the experience in determining which products sell the best and which products shouldn’t make the cut. She said, “It helped me see how beneficial a storefront is!”

Maddie Rogers, a sophomore graphic design major from Abilene, Texas runs a business called Oh So Sunny that sells products consisting mainly of stickers and apparel. “I design and create products that send a message of joy, sunshine, and hope.” Maddie started her business in high school when she made a sticker to commemorate her acceptance into ACU. The “Scratch ‘Em Cats” sticker spiked her interest and led Maddie to design new creations. Rogers has learned a lot from being a part of The Commons. “I’ve learned how important it is to network and put yourself out there in order to succeed. Being at The Commons has also helped me meet so many other small business owners in Abilene and helped me find a support system through the many trials that come with this crazy endeavor!” The space has given Maddie the chance to help her business grow. “This opportunity has helped me reach new customers I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise! It also helped me see what the experience would be like to own my own store if I ever wanted to. Karson has really utilized her talent and taught me what hard work looks like. I truly don’t know how she does it!”

COBA seeks to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Karson Tutt is living out that vision and helping her fellow entrepreneurs along the way before she’s even walked the stage at graduation. If you’d like to learn more about opportunities for students like Karson through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, click here.

This Springboard Student Venture Competition Winner is Cool – Literally

The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, located in COBA, founded the Springboard Student Venture Competition to support the growth of ACU undergraduate and graduate student businesses and nonprofit organizations. Winners receive one-time funding from $500 – $3,000.

In order for the students to be able to compete in front of the Springboard judging panel, the students must be enrolled at ACU, must own at least 51% of their venture, and must be engaged in entrepreneurial activities such as the Founders Club, a student venture club led by Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator in the Griggs Center. Awards are based on the panel’s assessment of the potential of the business and the “spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the student(s)”. Students come prepared with a 3 – 4-minute speech and the necessary financial reports for their business. Each student receives feedback on their presentation/business model and a chance to compete again in the next competition for those who are not awarded funding in the current competition. This year, the students gave their pitch to three local business owners via video chat.

A.J. Brown, senior management major from Midland, Texas won this round of competition receiving a total of $3,000 to put towards his business, Southern Sno Shaved Ice.

We asked Brown about his business and how he got started. “Southern Sno is a mobile shaved ice trailer in Midland. We have a location that is open daily during the summer, while also catering to events/parties with an outfitted gas-powered cart that we like to call the ‘Jolly Trolley’. We pride ourselves on being the fastest shaved ice drive-thru in town, with the nicest employees. Our sno-cones have fun and unique flavors with the softest ice.”

One thing that unites many of the Founders Club members is how they got started. Each student has a unique story, but they could all agree that they put themselves out there and went for what they wanted to achieve. “During my freshman year of college, I changed my major to business after the first semester. Because of that, I was looking for something that I could do in the summer that could teach me about business while still getting to hang out with my friends. Options were limited because it had to be a seasonal business, so that is where the idea of sno-cones came into play. I used the money I saved up from a mobile car detailing business I ran in high school and hit the ground running!”

We love hearing Brown’s story and his inspiration to create his own work experience based on what he has been learning in COBA. From beginning his business to winning the competition, we asked Brown what he learned from the experience. “The competition was a great experience for me. It gave me a reason to step back, analyze what things I have done well, and what things I need to improve on. I also loved the experience of having to come prepared and confident about presenting my business in front of a group of successful entrepreneurs. I am very grateful for the Griggs Center and all that it does!”

Now that Brown has won, he says, “In all that I do with this business, I want to go about it in a smart and professional manner. I have heard of many companies that scale too fast and it ends up hurting them. My dream is to expand Southern Sno into other cities in Texas. But for now, I am focused on mastering the operations in Midland. At Southern Sno, everything is made in-house: syrups, ice, etc. The last two years  I have been very blessed to be able to use a commercial kitchen from a group in Midland. I have realized that this isn’t a great long-term solution for scaling the business. So, with the money I have won from the competition, I will outfit the small warehouse that Southern Sno leases from a group in Midland. This allows me to have all of the supplies, ice, syrups, and trailers all in one place which really helps operations. Once we master that, we will look to move forward with possibly expanding into other markets.”

Owning a small business during COVID-19 has proved to be a difficult task for business owners all across the nation. We asked Brown what it has been like to continue operations as a young entrepreneur. He told us, “COVID-19 brought about some crazy instances. The first crazy thing we had to deal with was on our ‘Opening Day’ that we had been advertising for over a month. Thirty minutes before opening, the owner of the lot we were using called and said we could not be there. So that was a mess, but we recovered and ended up finding a great location. I would say the main thing that we had to change was we completely pivoted into a drive-thru only location. Before, people could only walk up. The drive-thru actually created a quicker and more efficient way for us to get cars in and out, and it showed in our daily revenue. The biggest downside we faced was that our business was hurt with not really being able to do many events throughout the summer. The year before that was our primary source of income. We are hoping to increase both of those streams of revenue this next summer, hoping that Covid calms down!”

Congratulations to A.J. Brown for all of his hard work and accomplishments that have led him to this point in his entrepreneurial journey. We look forward to seeing his continued growth as an entrepreneur as he continues to learn and expand his business.

You can check out Southern Sno Shaved Ice here!

 

Internship Spotlight: Meagan Thomason

For students, the winter break can be one of the most optimal times to work on your resume and career search because you have spare time to search for internships or apply for jobs depending on where you are in your academic journey towards graduation. To help students get started, we have been posting Tip Tuesday advice on our social media that guides you through small and easy steps that you can take over the next four weeks to help you find interesting career options and get your resume and social media ready for potential employers.

To give you some encouragement on your internship journey, we wanted to share an internship story from one of our current students, senior management major Meagan Thomason from Midland, TX. She interned for ER Senior Management, LLC which provides service across Texas to owner-operated/managed senior living retirement communities. Meagan worked in one of their Abilene locations where she assisted in Human Resource (HR) functions. Meagan’s internship duties were varied as she told us, “This semester I have specialized in the Associate Satisfaction Surveys in pulling data and displaying the survey results. I mostly worked with Excel and Canva. I also assisted in recruitment by reading resumes, scheduling interviews, and sitting in on those interviews. Along with all that I assisted in coding insurance invoices among other HR-related tasks.”

Meagan found that seeing the tangible results of her labor was incredibly satisfying and made this the favorite part of her internship as she saw the findings being put to good use within the company. She told us, “I worked so hard on the surveys for so long and finally seeing the results and all my hard work being sent back out to the four different communities. It felt good to finally have others see what I had been working on for so long.”

Internships offer students more than just course credit or, in some cases, financial gain. They can also offer great experience and insight as Meagan found, telling us that she learned, “The stress of dealing with a crisis in the office along with the importance of writing a good solid resume. It’s important to keep a level head, especially when working in the healthcare industry during a pandemic. This internship also allowed me to figure out what part of the business I wanted to go into after graduation. I was unsure before, but this internship taught me the value of Human Resources and why HR exists.“

Looking forward, this internship is shaping her future as she gained invaluable hands-on experience teaching her lessons that she could not have learned in a classroom. Her internship helped her explore and discover what area of HR she was interested in and what it would take to be hired by another company in the future. Meagan told us that the experience as a whole has helped her to take initiative and prepare to make the transition from a university student to her future career in the industry.

Meagan advises future interns, “Keep a notebook and write down EVERYTHING you do. This will help you in updating your resume and in future interviews when you’re asked about what you did during your internship. It also helps you keep track of your tasks you’re assigned and if you’re asked about something you did a month previously, you can turn to that page and explain exactly what you did.” She also suggested to “Keep a google calendar of everything you have going on. This semester I worked at my internship and a part-time job. I’m also one of Delta Theta’s pledge officers and a full-time student. It can be a lot and Google Calendar helped me schedule out my weeks.”

Meagan said that the classes she took, particularly in excel and personal selling, prepared her for the internship and future employment as they directly applied to her internship as she developed surveys and assisted in recruitment and resume review. Meagan also felt that the mock interviews she participated in through COBA Edge assisted in her interview process.

Meagan has enjoyed her time in COBA and says one of her favorite things about being a business major happened early on in her academic career. “I would say the Venture Out project in Monty Lynn’s Intro to Business class was one of my favorite classes. Trusting a bunch of freshmen with the funds to buy and sell products? That was a really fun first project for college.” Meagan’s hands-on holistic COBA experience has been extremely valuable to her in preparing her for her internship and in preparation for her future career.

We love assisting students as they journey through classes, internships, and career searches. If you would like help with your resume and internship or job search, you can contact Steph Brown with COBA Edge at srb19c@acu.edu.You can also check out our social media every Tuesday during break to get tips on what you can be doing now to prepare for internships and future careers!

Right Hand Media Joins Wildcat Ventures

RHM Team

Accomplishing their goal to add a new venture this semester, Wildcat Ventures acquired Right Hand Media (RHM), making it their sixth student-run business on campus. President of Wildcat Ventures, Riley Simpson, originally founded Right Hand Media as a freelance videographer. However, seeing that it would thrive in the market Wildcat Ventures caters to, the team made the decision to bring the business on board, hiring Tres Cox as the CEO. 

Tres is a marketing and management major from Lewisville, TX. Working alongside Tres is account manager Bekah Penton, content creator David Mitchell, creative designer Ashley Lang, videographers/editors Emily Shafer and Tavian Miles, and videographer and web designer Matthew Jungling. 

Tres sees RHM as helping to fill a communication gap on campus. “In this season, everyone is looking for an effective way to connect with their audience, and visual media is one the best ways to do that. Our services help our clients make an impression and make connections.” RHM specifically works in video production, digital marketing, photography, and design. 

CEO, Tres Cox

Cox said that their customer base is varied. “Our services are businesses and organizations who want to present themselves and express their message with quality content. At Right Hand Media, we encourage our partners to play their best hand.” 

RHM has worked on many projects over the semester that encapsulates the mission behind that statement. Every project has elegant evidence to show for the team’s workmanship. The company has been working closely with Dr. Dennis Marquardt and Nick Gonzales from the Lytle Center to produce the Leadership Link podcast. Nick is a fan of the work of RHM, saying, “What is unique about Right Hand Media is that they are an organization that is very easy to work with. Their adaptability is a trait that no one should take for granted. They have worked with the Lytle Center for multiple episodes and each time we pitch a new idea or have second thoughts on something they are quick to go with the flow, brainstorm, and even build upon ideas.” Gonzales noted that working with RHM means “working with excellence” and gives high praise to the team’s professionalism and collegiality.

RHM filming Mary Gregory’s Class

Another great testimony about what RHM is helping clients accomplish is the growth of painter Mary Gregory’s online painting class, Egg, Feather, Nest. Cox detailed how RHM has worked to help Gregory market her talents. “Our team films and produces the video lessons that go into her courses, creating graphics and promotional content, and managing the digital marketing strategy for the company’s online presence. It’s been an incredible journey, taking Mary from teaching only small workshops when she had the time to now teaching hundreds of students online.”

Account Manager, Bekah Penton

Not only have these client accounts created experiential learning opportunities for RHM student employees, but the students are also building on their strengths and gaining valuable experience for their future careers. Bekah Penton said, “Working at Right Hand Media has been different than any other position I have held before, but I have learned something new every day. While I have done freelance social media management before, this position at RHM has allowed me to take more of a leadership role on a team instead of independent work. It has also allowed me to continually grow in my knowledge of digital marketing such as social media, email, and content creation.”

Creative Designer, Ashley Lang

Ashley Lang told us that she loves her team because “Our people are diverse and incredibly creative in unique ways. Everyone has something different to bring to the table, and we get to utilize those strengths to create killer projects that cater to the needs of our clients. Each of us is heavily involved in things outside of RHM, and I think that reflects the potential for leadership and the amount of talent that exists within our team. These are people that come willing to learn and try new things together, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!”

Inspiring and equipping students is part of the vision of the College of Business –  to connect business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. The creative spark that the Right Hand Media team shows through their work to help others shine while continuing to learn and excel at their professional skills is something that COBA aspires to instill in all of its students. To follow RHM’s team on their Instagram page click HERE.

Springboard Student Venture Competition

Founders Club

The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, located in COBA, founded the Springboard Student Venture Competition to support the growth of ACU undergraduate and graduate student businesses and nonprofit organizations. Winners receive one-time funding from $500 – $3,000. 

In order for the students to be able to compete in front of the Springboard judging panel, the students must be enrolled at ACU, must own at least 51% of their venture, and must be engaged in entrepreneurial activities such as the Founders Club, a student venture club led by Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator. Awards are based on the panel’s assessment of the potential of the business and the “spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the student(s)”. Students come prepared with a 3 – 4-minute speech and the necessary financial reports for their business. Each student receives feedback on their presentation/business model and a chance to compete again in the next competition for those who are not awarded funding in the current competition. 

This year Founders Club President, Karson Tutt, and Founders Club member, Lauren Gumm, were awarded for their presentations. Gumm, an elementary education major from Abilene, TX, runs a screen printing company called Wear It to Share I”. Lauren screen prints thrifted shirts by hand in order to bring people environmentally conscious and unique shirts. Tutt, a senior management major from Tuscola, TX, started Karson’s, an online jewelry company, which is now in the process of adding an in-person location in Abilene where many other products will be available. We interviewed both award winners to learn about their experiences participating in the Founders Club and the Springboard Student Venture Competition. 

Wear It to Share It

How has being involved in the Founders Club impacted your business?

Lauren: “Founders Club has provided so many resources for me and my little company! I’ve gotten financial advice and marketing consultations and had the opportunity to speak in front of members of the Abilene community about the awesome entrepreneurs at ACU! I started my business in my dorm room and being able to have an office space where I can work is another great resource that the Founders Club has given me. Founders Club has also given me a community to walk through business ownership with. My friends have always been super supportive of my business but having a group of people who also own their own businesses that I can talk through ideas and problems with has been a huge blessing.”

Karson: “I have loved getting to meet with other student entrepreneurs who understand the struggles I go through. I also participated in one of the pitch competitions and won money to put towards opening my store.”

What did you learn from the competition experience?

Lauren: “The competition gave me a sense of confidence in my abilities as a business owner. To be able to present the work I constantly pour into and receive validation that what I’m pursuing is smart and in demand was really reassuring! I also learned how important it is to be confident in your abilities. The judges were looking for business owners who happen to be full-time students. I walked away really feeling like they saw me as a business owner and a student.”

Karson: “I learned that I am actually more confident in my business as a whole than I thought. I used to think my business was just kind of small and not that big of a deal, but it’s actually really cool that I’m doing this and it’s not as hard as I thought to talk to adults about what I do and my plans for the future.”

Karson’s

What is your plan for your business now that you have won the competition?

Lauren:Winning the competition gave me the ability to purchase new equipment that I desperately needed. The equipment I started out with in 2018 still functioned perfectly fine but it was the cheapest option available and therefore required every element of the process to be done by hand. My new equipment is what allowed me to fully pursue printing on thrifted shirts! I simply didn’t have the time to thrift and print but with the time saved using my new equipment I am able to do both!”

Karson: “I was planning on opening the store regardless of if I won or not, but now that I did win the extra funding I was able to literally expand the space of the store and get nicer versions of the things I was already going to be getting (ex. cash register, security system, light fixtures, etc.).”

Is there anything you would like to add?

Lauren: “I just want to encourage anyone who thinks they want to begin a business to go for it! Even if it isn’t a business you want to pursue long-term you can learn so much through the process! I have an appreciation for entrepreneurs that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and started Wear It to Share It!”

Karson: “The Griggs Center and Founders Club truly have been a great asset to me and my business. I love the community that has come from being involved.”

Internship Spotlight: Maddy Crockett

Junior accounting and management major, Maddy Crockett, from Lubbock, TX interned this summer at the corporate headquarters of City Bank, a publicly-traded company in Lubbock, Texas. While there, Maddy worked for the director of the Project Management Office and said, “The internship I held this summer with City Bank went beyond my expectations, and I am incredibly grateful for the experience the company provided me”.

Maddy learned so much during her time at City bank. “Project management within companies has always been fascinating to me, and I was able to learn it first-hand this summer. Over the nine weeks I was with City Bank, I was shown the timeline of a project, both in theory and in practice. I was able to shadow the director of the department in all areas – project implementations, team touchpoints, leadership development, and meetings with department heads and bank executives. I was also given a project of my own to work on, where I communicated with corporate and branch team members to complete a data initiative. The leaders in the Project Management Office showed me real tools to initiate and carry out projects from start to finish.”

Real-world experience with an opportunity to apply what she had learned was invaluable to Maddy. “One of my greatest lessons from this experience was getting to lead a meeting of my own for the director and other members of PMO. I also enjoyed experiencing seeing individuals from all different departments come together to accomplish a project; individuals were chosen to utilize their specific skill sets, and it was encouraging to see that teamwork and cooperation from everyone involved. City Bank is an excellent organization to work for; they treat employees like family, they provide great opportunities for growth, and they execute top-notch service for their customers.”

Maddy felt ready to take on the summer internship saying, “ACU has prepared me to be proactive and professional in this internship, along with being willing to work hard. By our professors encouraging us to be inquisitive and prepared for questions, I was able to learn from my director and peers. COBA has taught me that excellence is worth pursuing, and it is a goal I should seek after in all areas of work.”

Maddy’s favorite thing about being a COBA student is the variety of opportunities the college offers. “I love the learning opportunities COBA provides; nowhere else have I gotten the applicable experience that I have here. Additionally, the relationships we get to have with our professors has been a favorite of mine.”

For those students preparing for an internship, Maddy advises, “Have a teachable attitude, say yes to what is asked of you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your internship is what you make of it – it can be average, or it can be exemplary. Take advantage of the opportunity your internship provides for you and make it exemplary!”