Students balance class and entrepreneurship

Several students at Whitworth own their own businesses as well as attend school. Some have their businesses as side projects, while others plan to advance their businesses into full careers after college. Freshman Cooper Strout, freshman Dylan Schmidt and senior Olivia Strohm manage their own businesses. Cooper Strout

Strout started a tank top business in honor of his father. The tank tops currently come in two designs, and have the logo “Pursuit” on them.

Strout’s father started showing signs of dementia when Strout was 10 years old.

Strout’s father used to be a millionaire, however when the disease affected his decision-making skills, he lost everything because of decisions he would not normally have made, Strout said.

While his father’s dreams were stopped abruptly, it is “the story of his pursuit” that inspires Strout, he said.

Joseph Parker|Photographer

Strout said he started his entrepreneurship because he wanted to grow up and “become a man,” since his father had become incapacitated.

At first, he was nervous about starting his own company selling tank tops, because he had always had a fear of failure, Strout said.

“I set a goal, and for some reason I thought so many times, ‘I can’t do it. No one is going to buy it,’” Strout said. “I came to a point where I realized I was going to do this because it’s going to make my family proud. I just did it, and people got along with the story that I put behind it, and I’ve actually been turning a profit.”

Strout’s biggest challenge of being a student and an entrepreneur is that he is always thinking about his business, he said.

“It’s weird to say, but everything I do represents the company,” Strout said. “If I’m going to make a sale, I have to stop what I’m doing and respond to emails right then. You have to be really spontaneous.”

Dylan Schmidt

Schmidt started the necklace company, Vial Styles, with his friend, freshman Maverick Johnston.

Vial Styles sells necklaces made from glass tubes that hold different colors of water. A portion of the proceeds go toward WaterAid, a nonprofit organization that works to provide clean water to different parts of the world, Schmidt said.

The goal of Vial Styles, besides becoming a successful company, is to give back, Schmidt said.

“We really wanted to make our customers feel like they could make a difference with their purchase,” Schmidt said.

The hardest part of owning Vial Styles while going to school for Schmidt has been prioritizing, he said.

“Throughout my life, I’ve always been a very hard worker,” Schmidt said. “If there are nights that I’m getting great ideas for necklaces, I don’t care about sleeping, because it’s something that’s worth it to me. Some nights I purposefully try not to sleep, because I know that I’m working harder than everyone else that’s getting eight hours. ”

The idea of starting a business is that it all comes down to what you want in life, Schmidt said.

“One of the things that I want in life is to be very wealthy. The reason I want to be very wealthy is so that I can afford to not worry about the things that don’t matter in life. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my life,” Schmidt said.

Olivia Strohm

Strohm started her own photography business, Olivia Strohm Photography, after several people asked her to take photos for them.

“I started my business because I wanted to take photos for a living,” Strohm said.

She enjoys capturing the candid moments up close, Strohm said.

“I’d describe my style as very natural. I tell the people I’m taking pictures of to just look around and laugh, and that’s how I get people to loosen up. I pose them, but they don’t look posed. I feel like I’m good at that,” Strohm said.

Strohm’s biggest challenge owning a business and going to school has been living in the Spokane area, she said.

“Spokane isn’t my favorite place to take photos so I don’t market here,” Strohm said. “So I’m in a lull when I’m at school, and that’s really hard, to not be working on my business.”

She wants to brand herself to the needs and desires of her customers, Strohm said.

“I’m very into trendy designs like botanical and geometric,” Strohm said. “I’m moving to Portland, so I’m trying to make myself trendy, even though I’m not very hipster or trendy, and I don’t identify with that culture, but I love the design work that comes out of that movement.”

Mikayla Nicholson Staff Writer

Contact Mikayla Nicholson at mnicholson17@my.whitworth.edu

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