Alumna, Kayla Laird graduated with honors from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a BBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management in 2020. Before transferring to UM-Flint, Kayla attended C.S. Mott Community College where she earned her Associates of Arts and Associates of Business Administration.
As our featured Alumni of the month, Kayla gives insight into her experiences at UM-Flint, her proudest accomplishment of winning more than $8,000 for her businesses, why she became an entrepreneur, and advice for students that are considering being their own boss.
Q: Degree(s) and graduation year: A: University of Michigan-Flint – Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management, BBA 2020 – Honors
Q: Pursuing another degree? A: Not currently, maybe in the near future I’ll go for my Masters!
Q: Where are you currently working and what is your title? How long have you been in this position or at this organization? What is your normal day to day? A: I have finally made the switch from working as a Project Manager at 100K Ideas into becoming a full-time, self-employed, multi-passionate entrepreneur! I am a young entrepreneur with a passion for creating healthy and sustainable products.
I currently have two businesses, the first, Lord Laird’s Premium Lemonade®, specializing in all-organic health drinks, and Queen Netzo Jewelry, specializing in handmade wire-wrapped Swarovski Crystal® rings in memory of my mother Kennette Laird.
When I began to get into jewelry at the age of 7, my mother was battling breast cancer. With the help of my Aunt Myra, I started a new hobby making all sorts of jewelry. Whenever I would visit, my aunt would always be making a new necklace, bracelet, or earrings of some sort. She taught me all of the basic techniques I needed to know in order to make creations with integrity. I made jewelry for my mother to wear as well as everyone who helped around the house during that time of need. With my dad being a pillar of support of my passion, the name “Queen Netzo Jewelry” has stuck ever since 2007. I felt the need to keep the name because it reminds me that she will always be the QUEEN in my heart.
I am currently developing a new business called Mobars, specializing in creating homemade luxe energy bars made with everyday essentials for a great breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or even dessert!
I have been an entrepreneur since the age of eight, always having the desire to become a businesswoman, looking to market, sale, and make a profit. On a normal day to day, I usually start my morning off with an hour workout. After working out, it usually gives me all the energy I need for the day to either produce 12+ gallons of lemonade, 100+ Mobars, or create new Swarovski Crystal rings for my customers. It’s been a great transition especially being able to remain stable during a pandemic. I am so excited for what is to come! ♡
Q: Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA? A: I have always known The University of Michigan to be a top-tier school! I was so glad that I could get a quality education for a fraction of the cost at the UM-Flint branch. It’s such a great school for entrepreneurship and innovation, and it’s also close to home, which I love!
Q: What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint? A: Meeting my favorite professor MRS. RITAAAAAA FIELDS has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. Going to her classes were by far the most fun I had during college.
Q: Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in? A: I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, so it only made sense to be an entrepreneur!
Q: What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far? A: Winning over $8,070 for my businesses has been one of my proudest accomplishments thus far. Currently, I am in a pitch competition to win up to $11,000 and I could not be more excited!!
Q: What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career as an entrepreneur? A: My advice would be the following:
Follow your passion
Do your research
Invest in learning
Add value to other people’s lives
Find like-minded people to hang around
Take the risk!
Learn from mistakes
& Tell your story.
Q: Fun Facts! A: I am from Maryland! I own and operate 3 businesses! andddd, I am currently ENGAGED and will be getting married later this year!
Hello! My name is Danielle Struck and I am a senior studying
I started the summer of 2019 in the magical place of Disney World exploring all things Mickey Mouse, Avatar and Olaf. After soaking up the sun for a week, I returned to work Downtown at 100k Ideas located in the Ferris Wheel. I spend my days as a project manager helping people in the community move their ideas forward. Whether that be a product, service, software, or social impact, we’re always open for conversation. I was fortunate to work closely with our new satellite locations at the Flint Development Center and The Berston Field House to make our services more assessable to others in the community! One of the ideas I worked closely with this summer you may have noticed zooming around town. Did you hear about the new scooters coming to Flint? My coworker Peter Deppe and his friend Scott Spitler are the guys who are making that possible. Kuhmute is scooter rideshare that offers a universal charging hub for any rideshare. I’ve spent many days learning what really goes into entrepreneurship, feeling inspired by their dedication, and helping them any way I can.
For the upcoming Fall Semester, I’m excited to announce it
is my final fall semester of my undergrad career! I’m ready for all the
connections that will be made and to discover even more about myself as a
student and as a professional.
For new students and incoming freshmen, my best advice:
1. Charlies’ Smokin’ BBQ at the Farmer’s Market is the best.
Three reasons why every person can’t have a million dollars when they retire: irrational decisions, uncontrollable misfortunes, or a missed opportunity.
Every person has access to the world market. When the internet became popular in the 90s, a friend and I decided to sell boat anchors. We established a website and sold boat anchors. To our amazement, we sold anchors to every continent in the world, except Antarctica. We discovered penguins don’t need boat anchors. I sold my anchors from Flint, Michigan and I didn’t know anything about the boating industry but we had the power to be able to connect to global markets and utilizing this new technology.
It was overwhelming to learn that there is a market for everything. To be successful, learn how to tap into that market. Use tools you already have like your cell phone or community resources, like a local computer lab. Do the research and figure out a way to get your idea or business into the market. Attend an event with the Innovation Incubator ([IN]) or have your idea assessed at 100K Ideas.
We have one of the most remarkable business economies in the world currently. People have more resources and opportunities now than at any time in the history of our world. I only see better things from here for those entering the marketplace unless they make irrational decisions.
Alumna, Madison McCrum, graduated from UM-Flint’s School of Management with a BBA in Business Management with a focus in EIM in 2018. Madison was involved with the Entrepreneurs Society and the Hagerman Center during her undergraduate studies. At the age of 22, Madison now works for a Fortune 500 company and has moved out of the state to work in North Carolina and Florida. She credits her decision to concentrate in entrepreneurship to her strong-willed personality. Having the go-getter attitude has impressed employers she has met. As our featured Alumna, Madison answers questions on why she chose UM-Flint, life after college, and advice for students interested in management.
Why did you major in BBA Management with a focus on Entrepreneurship?
I chose a BBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship because as a strong willed individual I knew I would need the knowledge to one day pursue my own company. As a recent graduate however, employers have commented on how they love grads with an Entrepreneurship focus because they are impressed with our confidence and willingness to be a self starter!
Why did you choose UM-Flint for your BBA?
Initially, I would have to say I chose UM-Flint because my mother is a nursing professor there. However, what made me stay was how much I was challenged, particularly in the Entrepreneurship Society, Business Law class, and the multitude of business competitions I participated in, which later on impressed employers.
What is one of your favorite experiences at UM-Flint?
One of my favorite experiences I would have to say is just the day to day banter I could have with professors on an academic and personal level. They helped me achieve awards (Hagerman’s Zillion Solutions: University Improvement) and question why I was choosing the path I chose. Was I going to be challenged or become bored? Where did I see myself in 5-10 years? How do I better others by bettering myself?
Why did you choose to go into the career path you are currently in?
I chose to work supply chain in corporate retail because I worked full time in retail all throughout college. I am given pretty much free reign of how I want to own my departments and manage my staff. I have to make the calls on inventory management, product shipment windows, and seasonality time frames. My boss calls it, “an entrepreneur within a corporate setting.”
What is one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
So far, my proudest accomplishment is not the fact that I have landed an amazing corporate job at 22 years old at a Fortune 500 company, nor moving to NC and FL for improving my career. My proudest accomplishment is that I can still call my favorite professor on campus, Dr. Witt, throw a scenario at him, and get his opinion. It’s the ties I have back home that make me most proud, that and Urban Meyer retiring.
What advice would you give students that are thinking of pursuing a career in Management?
My biggest words of advice would be to stay humble and hungry. No matter what goes on in your career, don’t burn bridges -including in college. Also, pursuing a management degree is phenomenal if you are willing to work very hard for it -stay hungry! You will only get what you put in for it. UM-Flint has more than enough opportunities for you to succeed.
Since graduating, I have moved to North Carolina and Florida. I have adopted two black labs and love to go hiking! I am currently living in Florida and snorkel, go kayaking with manatees, or play beach volleyball with friends any chance I get! The coolest professor on campus is still my mom, Toni L. LaRocco (2nd place goes to Dr. Witt)! I am truly grateful for the memories I made UM-Flint -Go Blue!
2018-2019 academic year was a massive success for the School of Management
student organization, Entrepreneurs Society (ES). Entrepreneurs Society
received four awards at the Wolverine Excellence banquet on Thursday, April 11,
2019. The banquet is hosted by the Department of
Student Involvement and Leadership and recognizes the
contributions of a student organization which exhibits strong leadership skills
such as teamwork, collaboration, communication, while also implementing
initiatives that fulfill the mission of their organization. The organization is also one that is
committed to furthering the university’s mission and positively impacting the
quality of student life on campus.
Entrepreneurs Society received the Outstanding Organization Award and the Student Organization Community Contribution Award. The Outstanding Student Organization Award recognizes a student organization that has demonstrated significant leadership qualities and has contributed to the University of Michigan-Flint during the 2018-2019 academic year. Along with the two distinguished organizational awards, the School of Management Faculty member and Advisor to Entrepreneurs Society, Dr. Michael Witt, received the Outstanding Student Advisor Award. Lastly, the President of Entrepreneurs Society, Todd Fridline (BBA in Finance ’20), received the Outstanding Student Leader Award.
President of Entrepreneurs Society, Todd Fridline (BBA in Finance ’20), Vice
President, Elisabeth Hamilton (BBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship ’20), and
Treasurer, Carryn White (BBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship ’19) discuss
Entrepreneurs Society community contributions and leadership at University of
Michigan-Flint in a Q&A with the School of Management.
Q: How has this organization
demonstrated leadership and positively contributed to the Flint community?
Hamilton: The Entrepreneurs Society takes great pride in being leaders
on our own campus and also in the community in which we live. The biggest way
our organization is making a positive contribution to the community of Flint is
our Flint Green project. Flint Green is a project focused on changing the
negative connotation that the community of Flint receives, and turning it into
a positive outlook. Flint Green is focusing on promoting a greener version of
Flint, using solar and wind energy to support the members of the Flint
community who typically get ignored. By promoting and marketing this project,
Entrepreneurs Society is also promoting a positive contribution to the Flint
This past December, over 20 Entrepreneurs Society members
visited the Whaley
Children’s Center to volunteer our time. The Society
believes it is important to give back to the community whenever possible. This
volunteer opportunity allowed ES students to help the Whaley Children’s Center
in one of their most crucial times of the year.
Fridline: In the fall, the Entrepreneurs Society held its first annual Entrepreneur Tour. This experience provided students with an opportunity to listen to and network with entrepreneurs here in our own city. The tour made two stops in Downtown Flint. The first was at Cafe Rhema, where ES members listened to one of the executives at OLV Investment Group and Cafe Rhema owner, Josh Spencer. The tour also visited the Flint Ferris Wheel to visit the owner of KALM Clothing. They are both thriving businesses within the Flint Community and offered great insight about their experience of crafting their businesses, as well as gaining support from other local companies and promoting them to students at the University of Michigan-Flint.
with this tour, we have also had the honor of having various Flint
entrepreneurs come to speak to our society, such as Wes Stoody, Founder of
Article One, Terry Stanfill, inventor of “Lenz,” and we had a team
assisting him in his marketing and finding his market segment, Drew Lauinger,
Instagram Influencer looking to start a social media marketing company, Sean
Tabor, Project Manager at Michigan Management Specialists and alumni of ES and
many more entrepreneurs.
Society also visited local packaging company and Tier-1 automotive supplier,
NorthGate. Several ES students received a tour of one of their facilities and
had a great opportunity to talk with the President of the company for over an
hour. ES has also collaborated with local Entrepreneurs and alumni of the
University of Michigan-Flint. Two entrepreneurs reached out to the Society in
search of help for their respective businesses. Students from ES provided these
entrepreneurs with business plans, financial models and projections, and
helpful insight to their business sector.
White: Entrepreneurs Society has also held many events open to the
community of Flint, including relationship with the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Speaker Series, Financial Wellness workshops
and a LinkedIn Workshop. In these workshops, we have collaborated with other
student organizations, emphasizing on the idea that the community of Flint
should be an environment where everyone feels involved.
Q: How has the organization
demonstrated a commitment to furthering the mission of the University of
Fridline: The Entrepreneurs Society is dedicated to the success of
its members, the community and the University of Michigan-Flint. Through
collaborations, student engagement, and various events, the Entrepreneurs
Society has worked hard to create opportunities for students across campus at
UM-Flint. Entrepreneurs Society provides students with valuable, hands-on
professional experience through events and projects. Among many things, we
provide students with an opportunity to explore career opportunities and learn
the skills needed to succeed as a student and professional.
Hamilton: Our two main events engage the community locally and
globally. The first being our annual Entrepreneurs Society Dinner. This event
is an opportunity for everyone in the Flint community to network with each
other and grow positive connections along with each other, thus continuing the
mission of bringing positive collaboration of members of the Flint community.
This dinner is also a way to get the University of Michigan-Flint name out there
in a positive way and show anyone from outside of this community the great
things our school and organization are doing. The Entrepreneurs Society invites
esteemed alumni and business professionals in the Flint area and connect them
with current students on our Flint campus. The goal of this dinner is to
provide these current students with a chance to network with local businesses
and entrepreneurs. Over 120 people were in attendance, making it a great night
of networking and opportunities for UM-Flint students, alumni, and community
White: The other main event the Entrepreneur Society participates in is the annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Conference. In November of 2018, ten Entrepreneurs Society members attended this global event in Kansas City to represent the University of Michigan-Flint and its values. At the conference, each member built leadership, networking, and teamwork skills through various seminars and workshops. In addition to learning these new skills, our Entrepreneurs Society also placed in the top five for awards in Outstanding CEO Chapter Leader, Outstanding CEO Chapter Advisor, and Best Cross Campus Innovation & Networking Award. Our President, Todd Fridline, was also able to represent our chapter and university during a Chapter Development session allowing ES to reach a global base by speaking about our practices. The conference is an opportunity to network with other students and executives from Fortune 500 companies. By supporting individual endeavors, as well as hosting these campus-wide events, the Entrepreneurs Society has been able to draw student involvement from multiple disciplines (including pre-med and engineering) to the organization.
Hamilton: Lastly, the Entrepreneurs Society has worked diligently to
include students of all majors in events, projects, and meetings. Specifically
at UM-Flint, ES has had student volunteers participate in coordinating a Zillion
Solutions, another event hosted by the Hagerman Center, competition and Think
Tank sessions hosted in the fall semester. Through collaborations with the
Hagerman Center, and outreach at events like Admitted Student Welcome, Mgagement,
and Pre-Business Welcome, ES has continually offered assistance to students
beyond the School of Management.
Q: How has this organization
positively contributed to student engagement at UM-Flint?
White: The Entrepreneurs Society is a resource that enables
students to shape their careers and advance themselves in the professional
world. Every semester, Entrepreneurs Society works hard to create opportunities
through various projects and events. Members can take part by leading their own
project or volunteering to support ongoing endeavors.
Hamilton: The organization has engaged students by providing team
members to help students start their own businesses. ES alumni, Hane Cho, has
launched DASH, a social networking app on
Google Play and in the app store. Cho has been interviewed by several local
news outlets about his work and aid from the Entrepreneurs Society. Another
current project we having been supporting is an Italian import startup.
Fridline: Entrepreneurs Society invites students from all areas of
campus to join the group for weekly workshops held during meeting time. These
include etiquette tips, how to network effectively, intellectual property
basics, how to improve your LinkedIn profile, and financial wellness for
students. Additional involvement comes from collaborating with other
organizations, such as SHRM, Marketing Club, and SCOMA, to host these events.
Entrepreneurs Society also works closely with the Hagerman Center by hosting a Zillion
Solutions, which received over 200 idea-solution entries. ES members are
developing a sales pitch to aid the engineering department in participating in
the annual Baja race. Collaboration with these organizations has resulted in
the promotion and involvement of our members, as well as members of other
Where: The School of Management, Riverfront Center
The Summer Entrepreneurship Institute will assist participants with an interest in business and entrepreneurship decide if this is a route they would like to pursue in college. The program will engage students in a series of life changing sessions, allowing them to get a feel for the field. Click here to read more.
On April 4, UM-Flint School of Management alumna Teresa Lindhurst launched the alumni group – Entrepreneurs Society Affinity. Held in the Northbank Center Grand Ballroom, guests of 150 included current School of Management students, alumni, and members of the Flint business community joined to celebrate the unveiling of the Entrepreneurs Society Affinity (ESA). Click here to read full article.
Steve Whitener, University of Michigan-Flint Alumni and entrepreneur, spoke to students on Dec. 1 about the importance of entrepreneurship.
More about Steve Whitener
Started Real Estate Company as a UM-Flint Student
In 1973, while attending UM-Flint, Mr. Whitener purchased an apartment building. Upon graduating in 1977, he went on to acquire several additional rental properties. While managing several real estate holdings, he led a highly successful career in sales. This led to Mr. Whitener founding National Systems Installers.
Became a Technology Entrepreneur
In 1993, he founded National Systems Installers (NSI), a company that provides infrastructure cabling services to corporations. Six years later, he formed Nuspire Networks, which designs and offers monitoring and security systems. His business works with Fortune 500 companies and has 300-plus retail operations. He is Chairman of the Board for NSI and is a former Chairman of Nuspire, a multimillion dollar company he recently sold.
Mark Simon, PhD became director of the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation this fall. The University of Michigan-Flint School of Management center was created in 2015 thanks to a generous donation from Phil and Jocelyn Hagerman. Simon was recognized in his new role October 10 at an investiture ceremony. At the event, Simon said, “I can’t overstate how honored I feel. I am truly humbled. But I know that with all the wonderful support I am receiving from so many, including the Hagerman’s, administration, faculty, staff, and students, I believe that together we can truly make a difference.”
Prior to Simon’s official investiture, he shared his thoughts about the center, its benefit for students, his impressions of the university community, and more in this Q&A with University Relations.
The Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation held its Summer Entrepreneurship Institute camp for the first time on July 12-14.
High school juniors and seniors spent three days learning about multiple aspects of entrepreneurship, business, and marketing. The camp aims to help high school students understand entrepreneurship and the excitement surrounding new ventures that can solve real problems.
Professor Amy Gresock, Assistant Professor of Management, said she hopes to challenge the students to think about entrepreneurship in a multi-faceted way.
“Opportunities are everywhere. It wasn’t just sitting in a classroom with the students. We were in the Flint community. We were on campus and we challenged them to look for opportunities,” said Gresock. “In some of the exercises we did, they came up with some really good ideas that played off of opportunities that they saw in the external environment. Their problems don’t have to be something really grandiose. It can just be solving a problem that they see in everyday life.”
Professor Greg Laurence teaches summer camp students about the basics of Entrepreneurship.
Students spent time with School of Management Professors Amy Gresock and Greg Laurence inside the classroom and in the community working to develop their entrepreneurial venture. During day one, students toured the UM-Flint campus looking for opportunities and quickly found that Flint has a lot of prospects for entrepreneurs.
Sean Mason, a high school junior from Davison, said he appreciated the implementation of lessons learned during the Summer Entrepreneurship Institute.
“I liked that it was hands on. I didn’t know exactly what to expect coming into it but I liked that after we learned something, we got to try it out,” said Mason.
Sean Mason asks a question during a Skype interview with Chris Trejbal.
The camp aimed to encourage entrepreneurial thinking by engaging students with course materials, community experiences, and a field trip to Skypoint Ventures in downtown Flint on the second day of the camp.
Interim Director of Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and camp organizer, Professor Brian Blume, said he believes the Summer Entrepreneurship Institute was an engaging experience for the high school students.
“The camp was effective in introducing students to entrepreneurship and helping to develop an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Blume. “We, also, were able to show students how downtown Flint is being transformed to support and encourage entrepreneurial ventures, as well as introduce the strong entrepreneurship program at the UM-Flint School of Management.”
Summer camp students tour Skypoint Ventures. Bryce Moe, Managing Director of Skypoint Ventures, shows students a portion of the Dryden building that is under renovations.
On day three, the students wrapped up their work and learning by presenting their feasibility analysis projects to fellow students and their parents. Mason said he believes he gained a lot out of the camp experience.
“Before this camp I had a rudimentary understanding of business and certain opportunities. I learned about how to find your niche, how do you look at an opportunity and seize it and use the correct branding and marketing to really succeed and advance your cause,” said Mason.
The School of Management will be hosting another summer camp next year for high schoolers. Blume said he hopes to see more student participants in the future. He also has a piece of advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to get started.
“I suggest exploring these entrepreneurial interests early on. I encourage you to become involved with a business venture or to start a business, even if it’s a part-time business. Also, be sure to watch the TV show Shark Tank.”