Women students speak on entrepreneurship experience

Students Lauren Gifford, Belange Mutunda, Lauren Jones and Stephanie Bias spoke about their entrepreneurship experience as part of the “Women Who Create Student Panel” on Tuesday.

Logan Metzger

Owning a business while still going to college can seem unbelievable, but some students have done it with success.

Four students took part in a panel Tuesday called the “Women Who Create Student Panel,” which focused on the four women’s entrepreneurial experiences as part of Women Entrepreneurship Week.

Women Entrepreneurship Week is a global initiative focusing on promoting women entrepreneurs and their experiences. This is the second year Iowa State is taking part.

Lauren Gifford, senior in marketing, spoke about her company, Flourish.

Flourish combines learning calligraphy with the social atmosphere of a party through a blend of teaching classes, hosting community-driven events and creating online courses. Gifford also runs a YouTube channel.

Belange Mutunda, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, spoke about her company, Belange Handmade.

Belange Handmade combines fabrics from around the world and hard work to create handmade clothing and accessories for both men and women.

Lauren Jones, junior in entrepreneurship, will spoke about her company, The Modern Milkman.

The Modern Milkman is a food truck-style grocery subscription service that targets communities without an accessible grocery store, delivering select perishables such as bread, milk, butter, eggs and some produce.

Stephanie Bias, senior in event management, spoke about her company, Camp Aramoni.

Camp Aramoni is a luxury camping and event venue located in the small unincorporated town of Lowell, Illinois.

Diana Wright, program coordinator for the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, moderated the panel and asked the panelists questions.

“Did you guys always see yourselves as creating or owning a business?”

“Growing up, I wanted to be the first female president of the United States of America,” Jones said. “I had acceptance speeches written, I learned how to cry on cue. I guess I never grew up thinking I was going to own a business, but in the meantime, my neighbor had a cornfield and we lived by a golf course, so of course golf balls would get in the cornfield. They would let us keep the golf balls as long as we got them out of the field. So we would go around the neighborhod selling them and that would give us enough money to start a lemonade stand. Then we would have the lemonade stand and use that to buy things to buy friendship bracelets. Then it was ductape to make ductape pens. So I guess I was always starting businesses when I was young, but I never saw myself really doing it.”

“For me, growing up I saw myself as the employee but not the employer,” Mutunda said. “The thing that really helped me was my first purse. I was at school and someone was like, ‘I like your bag’ and I said, ‘I could make one for you.’ She brought me a pair of her jeans and I made it for free, but she wanted to pay me and then brought me five more people who wanted purses.”

“How do you guys identify what a problem was and provide value?”

“We went around the backyard,” Bias said. “We started with the property and we saw it as a venue, as a place to go and get away and go hiking and do all these other things. So we went back and tried to find a problem that we were providing a solution for.”

“Growing up I was from a small town,” Jones said. “I think just watching them lose their grocery store that I remember loving as a child. I went there all the time. Then watching the devastation that took over the community when they lost the grocery store — people not being able to get groceries — I think that is what started it.”

“What is your favorite place to create?”

“I like Bergie’s Coffee,” Bias said. “That’s where I like to create.”

“I like to be outside,” Gifford said. “Unfortunately, living in Iowa you get about three months of outside time. Usually by the library during the summer is where you will find me.”

“I like the browsing library in MU,” Jones said. “It’s across from Panda Express.”

“Mine is my living room,” Mutunda said. “It’s where I have my sewing machine, I have my sketchbooks, I have all my fabrics and everything there.”

“Who has played a role in your business?”

“For me, I would say the entrepreneurial community at Iowa State has had a big role,” Bias said. “I was at a community college before I transferred to Iowa State, so there was really no community at that campus. When I was able to transfer here I was in the CyStarters program and that really created a community for me and I met a lot of people who provided guidance to me.”

“I am very close with my grandmother and I remember one time as a kid when she tossed a magazine at me,” Jones said. “It was Time magazine and it was the top 100 most influential people of the year. She said, ‘I want you to be on this list some day.’ That is a lot of pressure for a 12-year-old, and if there is anything important I learned from her it is that if you live your life serving people, then you do not need a magazine to tell you the impact.”

“What words do you identify with if not entrepreneur?”

“I feel like my major encompasses all of my different interests, so I’d say I identify with the idea of event manager,” Bias said. “I still identify with entrepreneur as well.”

“I still definitely identify with it,” Gifford said. “I think selfishly I like to think of myself as an artist, not separate from my business, but I value both the components of being an artist and being a business owner.”

“I think […] I identify with the word entrepreneur, but a lot of the times [when] I think about what I am doing and I describe what I am doing I think more of words like ‘giving back to those who raised you’ or ‘being servant-hearted,’” Jones said.

“I just say fashion designer and small business owner just to be more serious,” Mutunda said.

This panel is a lead-up event for the “Women Who Create Conference” on Thursday.