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College Entrepreneurs

College Entrepreneurs

Running A Business While Keeping Up with Classes 

By T. Brooke Fisher  

I first started my own journey with running a small business during the summer of 2020. I needed something to focus my attention on while I learned to cope with the social distancing measures that COVID-19 brought. I chose to express my creativity by working with polymer clay, and I thought, “Why not try to sell my creations?”  

When I returned to school at Walla Walla University after what felt like an abnormally long summer break, I realized that to successfully manage a small business while finishing my last two years of college I would need determination, passion, and grit. I wondered if I knew others who had attempted something similar, or if balancing these two tasks was even possible.  

Soon I began noticing other student entrepreneurs in a way I never had before. Some designed and sold stickers, others ran service-based businesses such as home decluttering, and many students worked to establish themselves as professional photographers.  

“How do they do it?” I thought. “How will I do it?”  

I looked to the photographers specifically. Some seemed to dabble in the business side of photography almost like a hobby, but others truly wanted their entrepreneurial efforts to end in a viable business. I wanted to know the secret behind how they kept up in school while also establishing a legitimate business.  

I reached out to Angélica Brizuela Rodríguez, a junior product design student at WWU. Angie owns Casa Briro, and she describes herself as a small-town portrait photographer who specializes in engagements, small weddings, and senior photography.  

Angélica’s love for photography began in high school. She loved helping her friends have good images for their high school yearbooks, and soon a passion for connecting with people through photography began to blossom. “I love the connection photography facilitates between me and the client, especially when they’re surprised with the final product,” said Angélica. “People really are more attractive than they think they are.”  

Once college began, Angélica was tasked with a similar problem to mine. How could she run a successful business while continuing to flourish in school? “When taking on a normal class load, it usually goes by without many hiccups because I maintain a realistic gauge of how many clients I can take on,” said Angélica. However, she did find it harder to keep up with “for fun” shoots. 

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I asked her how she maintained a realistic gauge for how many clients she can accept when she’s taking a heavier school load than normal. “Honestly by failing,” she replied. “I’ve gotten to points where things aren’t turned in or clients don’t receive galleries in time and that’s tough–so to make sure that doesn’t happen I make sure I’m realistically seeing what is going to be expected of me in the next few weeks surrounding the client’s inquiry.” She sees mistakes as part of the journey and uses them as an avenue for growth.  

Angélica has learned how to develop her business through her classes at WWU, online podcasts, and trial and error. A principles of marketing class taught by Conna Bond, associate professor of business, helped Angie understand that the key for any business is to pinpoint a target market and work to carefully position a business for a specific niche. In a graphic design logo class, Josie Henderson helped Angélica learn how to appropriately price her services. Outside of classes, Angélica learns a lot about running a successful business from listening to podcasts like Jai Long’s, a business consultant who is passionate about helping creatives thrive.  

Angélica helped show me two things. The first is that perfection is not the goal when running a small business throughout college years. The goal is to learn and grow, and that may come through trial and error. She also reminded me that college courses can be greatly instrumental in helping young entrepreneurs build their businesses. It’s helpful to apply homework to your business whenever possible.  

To learn more about Angélica’s photography visit her on Instagram @casabriro.  

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