From Student to Entrepreneur

When you think of someone starting and running their own business, you probably envision someone older than 23 years old and in college. Sarah Smyth, an Auburn graduate from Madison, Alabama, has changed the jewelry game by starting her own business in college.

In June 2016, Smyth began making jewelry from scratch because she couldn’t afford to buy her own when she came home from studying abroad. She says her jewelry company, Raw & Rebellious, started “totally on accident.” “People really liked it and I had a friend that managed a boutique at home that offered to sell it in her store. I posted it on Instagram when I started selling it and it kind of just caught on from there,” Symth says.

Raw & Rebellious, named after Smyth’s exotic and unique style, creates jewelry ranging from necklaces to bracelets to anklets to rings. As far as style, Smyth chose to create her jewelry brand following her own style and not conforming to the status quo. “I made and continue to make things that I like and that fit my style in hopes that others will like it too. I try and make things as unique as possible,” says Smyth of the qualities that set her apart from her competition.

Having a wide target audience is important to Smyth and her brand. Smyth says she wants her brand to reach to all ages including those younger and older than her. “I don’t just want people to wear my necklaces, I want it to be a brand that people want to represent and a name that people want to know,” says Smyth.

In just a year and a half, Raw & Rebellious has gained a huge following on social media with over 31,500 followers on Instagram. Whether you’re in the Auburn, Birmingham or Madison area, chances are you’ve seen the works of this fast-growing company. Although a lot of R & R’s inventory is sold from Instagram, the company has its own website that shows the different styles and lengths the company sells. Smyth has gained part of her following by putting on trunk shows at sorority chapter rooms and selling inventory to local boutiques. “I continue to reach out to people with large social media followings and we have tons of girls that reach out to us daily.”

For now, R & R is enough to keep this 2017 graduate on her feet, being a full-time, self-employed manager of 9 other employees. As for the future of R & R, it’s up in the air. Smyth says she has no idea where the future will lead her business as she’s taking it day by day and is taking everything in stride rather than planning for the future.

Making a Difference – Passion For The Kids

Passion; the thing that gets you through life with a smile on your face. Some are passionate about sports, some are passionate about helping the community, and others, like Lindsay Freeman, are passionate about making a difference.

Freeman, a junior at Auburn, has been involved with the Auburn University Dance Marathon (AUDM) for the three years she has attended the school. According to the official AUDM website, the event is a “year-long, campus-wide fundraising effort that culminates in a 14-hour Dance Marathon to celebrate the money and awareness raised for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.” The money raised at the event benefit’s the Children’s Hospital at Midtown Medical Center at Columbus Regional Health.

As an AUDM staff member serving as assistant director of finance for her sorority, Freeman encourages chapter members to join the team and participating in the fundraising and event. “Last year we had about 50 girls on our team,” says Freeman. According to Freeman, fundraising can include asking for donations via social media, direct contact, letters, canning downtown or in class, searching for sponsorships, Venmo requests, and more. Freeman’s annual fundraising efforts have grown significantly each year, already raising over $700 of her $1,000 goal.

The activities that take place during Dance Marathon differ each year, with performances by different artists, appearances by the Auburn University Cheerleaders and Aubie, Kid Zone play areas where you can color and play games with the kids, and so much more. Freeman’s favorite parts of the 14-hour long event are coming together with everyone to perform a line dance and hearing each Miracle family’s story.

Being a part of Dance Marathon is important to Freeman because cancer hits close to home for the Florida native. “My mother had breast cancer twice so I understand what it is like to have a family member spend a lot of time in the hospital and in recovery during treatments. I also used to volunteer at a place in Orlando called Give Kids the World, which is a resort for families with kids who have life-threatening illnesses. This is where I developed my passion for helping sick children in any way I can,” says Freeman.

Last year, AUDM raised $541,832 and has raised a total of $1,571,809 over the past six years. Seeing the reveal of the money raised at the end of the main event after months of fundraising is one of the most rewarding feelings Freeman and thousands of other attendees experience. “At the very end of the night, the final amount raised for the year is announced in what we call ‘goal reveal’ which is absolutely amazing – everyone cries.”

Although Freeman will graduate from Auburn in the fall of 2018 and won’t be able to participate in the event next year, she says that she plans on donating and continuing to be involved in whatever way possible as an alumna. One thing is certain; Freeman has done everything in her power to make life easier For The Kids the past three years.

Five Reasons to Take an Internship in a New City

As someone who has personally held an internship position in a city besides my college town and hometown, it was the best decision I’ve made in college and the best experience I’ve had in my life thus far. Whether it’s across the sea or across the country, holding an internship in a new city has many benefits!

1. It allows you to step outside of your comfort zone by leaving the places you’re used to.

Accepting an internship position in a different city throws you into the real world sooner rather than later. Holding a job in a city that you know well is

very comfortable and might be for some homebodies, but if you’re an extrovert and love exploring new places, this is the perfect opportunity for you to experience the real world before you even graduate from college. For me, moving to Nashville at 21 years old helped me realized that I don’t want to stay in the cities I know well after college. It helped me realize that I want to get out and experience new cities and new people.

2. It indicates to potential employers that you are open to relocation and can easily adapt to moving.

 

If you find out your dream job across the country is hiring, chances are that your potential employer will love that you’ve already had job experience away from home so they’ll know you’re willing and ready to give it your all away from your comfort zone.

“I grew up in Tampa and have lived there my whole life. Despite being so far from home, my bosses thought I adapted so well to life in Maryland that they invited me back to intern again next summer,” Taylor Marek says of interning for Johns Hopkins in Maryland.

 

3. You get to learn about the city’s culture.

Let’s be honest, the most exciting part of interning somewhere new is exploring your new city. Walking around the town with new friends, scoping out the best places to eat (my personal favorite), and attending local sporting events are all great ways to adapt to your new city and get the full experience. Adapting to the nature of a new city might show you that you love it or you’re not so into it. Moving from hot to cold, beach to suburbs, or a city to the middle of nowhere, you might realize that you’ve fallen in love with everything your new city has to offer because of the location and people you meet.

 

4. It’s a great way to network with people and companies all over the world.

Not only does holding an internship position in a different city already give you exposure to that city, it gives you the potential to network with other cities. Dylan Hall, a senior political science major at Auburn originally from Nashville, TN, held an internship working with Senator Lamar Alexander in Washington

D.C. this summer. “I think the best experience that I gained during my internship was networking. While we certainly learned the routine of the Senate and researched on many projects, the people I met and the connections I made while working in D.C. are what will best prepare me for life after college,” says Hall.

Think about it this way, if you’re successful in whatever city you intern in and your employers talk highly of you to employers in different cities, you’re open for more opportunities!

 

5. You meet lifelong friends.

Chances are that if you end up in a city you’ve never lived in, your roommates and co-workers will be strangers. I met my roommates online and we instantly became best friends and still talk on a pretty much daily basis. Going out on the town with co-workers is a great way to meet new people and experience new adventures in your new city.

Like Dylan and me, you might fall in love with the city you intern in and know that’s where you want to end up after college. “I still talk with the people I worked with weekly,” says Hall. Hall also says he plans to head back to D.C. after graduation and start his career there.

(Photo, right, of my coworkers and me working an event at the 21 C hotel in Nashville)

 

If you’re interested in looking into potential internship opportunities, your school and advisors are always happy to help with your options.

Life After Auburn – Alumna turned COO

For most people, living in a college town is a temporary situation. You move to a new city, have a fresh start for a few years, and then move on to start your career in a different place. For McKenzie Shaffer, a 2013 Auburn graduate who fell in love with the small town, this wasn’t the case.

Like many people, Shaffer wanted to break away from her intimate social circle in high school and chose to come to Auburn from Florida for college. She says she fell in love with the university when her older sister came here for college.  Through different organizations, she met the people that she would soon call her Auburn family. “Those connections became acquaintances, acquaintances became friends, and those friends became family. I even met my husband in my freshman Chemistry class. In the end, I followed my family here, I met my family here, and I plan to make my family here,” Shaffer says of wanting to continue her life in Auburn.

Staying in Auburn was never part of Shaffer’s plan. She had always envisioned herself living in a big city and pursuing her love of fashion and apparel merchandising somewhere that she would make it big. “I never thought I could have a fulfilling career in retail in Auburn, but I was wrong and am so glad I was. There is much more to Auburn than the ‘small town’ I envisioned in my college years and other than marrying my husband, it was the best decision I have ever made.”

Knowing that she needed a background in retail experience, Shaffer took a job at Therapy Boutique in downtown Auburn during her years as a student. She never imagined that three and a half years later she would become Chief Operating Officer of the company. For the first two years as a Therapy employee she was a sales associate and the remaining year and a half she worked as inventory manager before working her way up to COO.

“Being a part of a small business means that I have to wear many hats,” Shaffer says about the roles she plays as COO, “I am in charge of our website design, content, and promotions. I also manage our marketing budget, assist in buying, oversee social media content, visual merchandising, and manage the internship program.”

As far as preparation for her role as COO, she says most of it came from real-world hands-on experience. “There is absolutely no substitute for experience, whether it be related to retail or not. You cannot teach hard work, you cannot teach patience, you cannot teach grit. Those are three (of many) things you need to be successful in a small business, and were key in preparing me for my current position.”

Shaffer says no two days are the same for her and she often finds herself bringing her work home with her because she’s so invested in it. “There is no set day, and that’s what I love about the job.”

Although Shaffer has just begun her life in Auburn as a newlywed, she says that she’s here for the long run. She’s established a career that she loves wholeheartedly, her home and her family on the plains.

Student from Deer Park, NY Finds Home 1,000 Miles Away in Auburn

If you’re looking to move away from your hometown and start a brand new life with people you’ve never met, choosing a college far away from home will be a breeze. For some, moving cross-country and away from family and friends is a tough decision when looking for somewhere to spend the next few years. There are many different reasons students pick colleges away from their hometown and for Toni Ann Cox, Auburn met all the criteria for a home away from home.

“I was looking for a bigger school with a 5-year interior architecture degree, a majorette team, warmer climate, school spirit and a single campus.” Cox, a senior from Deer Park, New York, says about searching for the perfect university.

Cox, the life-long Notre Dame fan, says that she didn’t know anyone coming to or who previously attended Auburn from her hometown. Although some individuals looking for schools might see this as a negative factor, Cox says it positively affected her decision to choose Auburn because she was looking to go somewhere and figure everything out on her own. (Photo, above: Toni Ann Cox)

There are many different ways to find your niche and feel at home when attending a university far from home. You create your own family! The Auburn Family that is. “The Auburn Family to me means that no matter where you come from, this is where you belong. Considering I am very far from home and do not see my family often during the school year, this means a lot. I am often comforted by the fact that I feel like I have a family away from home,” says Cox.

Cox created her own family here in Auburn by getting involved and meeting new people. She was a majorette during her first three football seasons at Auburn and is currently a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority and the American Institute of Architecture Students.

Of the extracurricular activities Cox has been involved with at Auburn, she says that being a member of a sorority has been her favorite. “It has granted me the opportunity to meet so many people who are supportive of me and always there for me,” she says. And though she’ll never forget the indescribable experience of charging the field each game day in her auburn-colored majorette uniform, she says “it would not be the same without the friends I have made here in the audience to cheer me on.”

On and off the field, there’s nothing quite like game day in Auburn! Cox decided to take a break from being a majorette her senior year and joins the game day experience in the stands with her friends. She says game day is her favorite Auburn experience because of the positive atmosphere and friendly faces she sees at each game. “The traditions here such as the eagle flight, pre-game jog from the marching band, and rolling Toomer’s never fail to put a smile on my face either,” Cox says of Auburn game day traditions. (Photo, left: Cox and her majorette team members)

Although her hometown of Deer Park differs extremely from the lifestyles, sports, food, and atmosphere in Auburn, she’d never change the decision she made to be an Auburn Tiger, even though the rest of her family went to college further north.

The decision to move to a new city and start over for college may be a tough one, but it shouldn’t be off the table. There are countless ways to meet people and enjoy the years away from your past life. Pick a school that your heart knows is best for you even if the distance is a flight away from your new home to your old home.

The Best Things in Life Can be Free

“I didn’t think college would be an option,” Briana “Bree” Carter remembers of the days when applying for college. Carter, a senior at Auburn from Irondale, Alabama, explains how growing up in a poor household encouraged her to find different ways to afford school.

Carter is the fifth of six children and thought that college was completely off the table for her, but earning scholarships and getting involved on campus helped her attend Auburn for free and earn a little bit of cash on the side. (Photo, right: Bree Carter)

Believe it or not, colleges and universities have ways for students to earn free housing while attending. Among the many organizations Carter has been a part of during her time at Auburn, she was a resident assistant for two years and had her dorm and on-campus dining fees waived. She has also been a part of Auburn Global, which is an organization through the University that allows students to mentor international students and have their housing fees waived as well.

Carter is very passionate about Auburn and the Auburn family. She has spent the past two years working with Camp War Eagle, the freshman orientation camp, and even became a head camp counselor. She is dedicated to making each incoming freshman’s Auburn experience as memorable and special as hers is. She says that though she can’t pick a favorite organization she works with, she has had the most experiences with Camp War Eagle. (Photo, below: Bree with her Camp War Eagle identifier)


Everyone experiences the Auburn family differently and Carter found her home by being a part of many different campus-run organizations. “I’ve worked for University Housing and Residence Life, First Year Experience, Auburn Global, High School Leadership Conference, MIS Association, and plenty more,” Carter says. “I think I learned something different about the Auburn family with each organization. I’ve learned that no matter what, you do have the Auburn family to fall back on whether you’re working together to mentor 10,000+ freshmen or you’re leading a team of determined MIS majors.”

Not only do members of these organizations feel fulfilled by mentoring and shaping students, they grow in so many different ways. “I have met many people who would be great resources for me through these programs. I’ve tapped into my leadership abilities through most of these organizations as well as technical skills.”

And Bree has some advice for those struggling to afford college, “Scholarships! FAFSA! Search far and wide because there are scholarships everywhere on the Internet. I have so many that aren’t directly from Auburn University that still help me go here for free.”

It’s important to follow your dreams no matter where they may lead you. There’s a stigma that schools and financial aid services don’t like giving out money to those who can’t afford school but there are so many different ways to be able to attend your dream school. Bree is the perfect example of a woman who made the most of her college experience by getting involved and doing it all for free.