They Walk Among You
January 4, 2012
Filed under Uncategorized
The pace of life at this time of year has all of us so occupied with final exams, holiday shopping, and running from one celebration to the next that we probably aren’t as focused on career, job searching, or where we’re going to be next week, next month or five years from now.
But there are some NYIT students who are already well on their way to making their first million, unburdened by the worries of who will hire them when they receive their degree from NYIT; they’ve already taken a passion and turned it into a small business.
One such grad student turned entrepreneur is Julia Testa, who will complete her MA in Communication Arts this winter. I met Julia in an evening class at the Old Westbury campus, to which she commutes from New Jersey, and she kindly agreed to be interviewed for this installment of “Words for the Working World”. Julia has taken a unique approach to entrepreneurship, donating ten percent of her profits from every sale to charity.
I asked Julia some of the questions I thought every student might ask about starting your own business, and she was frank, open and happy to pass on her experience.
JF: Julia, how far along are you towards your degree, I’m assuming you’re going for the MA in Communication Arts?
JT: The end is near! I will be graduating this winter. I actually went through every summer and every break without stopping. My concentration is Advertising and Public Relations – MA in Communication Arts.
JF: How long have you been in business for yourself?
JT: I started my business in May 2010. It worked out perfectly because I create my own work schedule so I’m flexible enough to concentrate on school. Now that the business has picked up (or doubled rather), I can’t say that luxury still exists! But I’m happy to have the business and I still make sure my school work always gets done.
JF: Could you say a few words about your business, for example, what inspired you to go into the business? How did you get it off the ground? What hurdles did you have to overcome, and of course, what are the things you love best about your business as well as the things you like least about your business?
JT: I created “Love & Philanthropy Flowers and Events” with a talent for floral design and a love for events and charities. I wanted to do something no one else was doing in this economy – give back to the community as a small business owner. When I first started, my biggest hurdle was budgeting finances. I’m a people person and a people pleaser. With that said, it was difficult for me to stay “within budget” for an event. I always wanted to add more and make the decor grander and more expensive. I thought that going above and beyond by giving my clients more than what they paid for would eventually pay off – because of rave reviews and positive word-of-mouth. What ended up happening was that “word-on-the-street was that I was “giving away the shop”. It took me a while to stick to my prices and charge people appropriately. My advice would be: when you first start a business, it’s always easier to lower your prices than it is to increase your prices. Essentially, I was being “too nice” and I wasn’t being appropriately compensated for my work. Know your worth! And make sure you get what you deserve.
Things I love best about my business: 1.) I can call the shots. 2.) The harder I work the more money I make. 3.) I get to meet new people every day and be creative.
Things I hate most about my business: 1.) Snotty brides. 2.) Consumers that try to shake me down for a cheaper price. 3.) People who have awful taste!
JF: Why did you choose NYIT?
JT: I chose NYIT because it had two campuses. I had the ability to take classes in New York City and on Long Island. Also, I could take classes at night and the minimum part time credit registration was two classes (6 credits). It was also very important to me that most of my professors were working in the PR/Advertising field – which made my education very current and applicable to real life – rather than having a professor who had been retired for 15 years and was teaching as a hobby or the “career professor” who had never worked in the real world.
JF: Are your studies at NYIT enhancing your business?
JT: YES! I actually planned my annual charity event with Professor Bret Tesman, who put me in touch with one of his Public Relations clients who let me use her restaurant space for free, AND he helped me with the silent auction, PR pre/post work, as well as promotional material and e-mail marketing. I donated $4,200 to The Morgan Center charity that night.
My professor and classmates all came and supported my cause. It was amazing. At the Manhattan campus, I produced two promotional videos in the professional studio (both of which are on YouTube and on my website) which gives my website a splash of interactive motion and excitement. I also did the ISES BizBash Event last year and my classmates helped me distributed my press release and media alert. I ended up being covered in “Best Events Magazine” as well as various blogs.
Julia’s website and her YouTube videos are not only of the highest quality, they serve as a powerful example to any NYIT student thinking about taking the leap into business for themselves. The videos are also a great example of the work being done in our Manhattan campus television studio.
Julia has the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and drive that will serve her and her business well in the future, not to mention the charitable organizations to which she donates a tenth of her profits.
Well done, Julia – and best wishes for more success as you graduate with your MA!