Women In Entrepreneurship kicked off the new fall semester with a previous MSU Alumni, Ari Washington, on Monday, September 19th in the Hatch. WE all came with loads of questions for Ari about her experience starting a Public Relations firm representing over a dozen professional athletes, called Double Coverage Group, right out of college. In addition, she recently opened her own boutique called Soñador Boutique in Chicago. There was no doubt that Ari had a lot of experience to share with the round table and everyone came with many questions to ask. Here are some of her answers!
What did you do in your undergraduate years at MSU that led you to your interests today?
Coming in wanting to do journalism, Ari switched into Communications soon and then her interests shifted to PR after doing a few internships, especially with the Miami Heat. Also, she has always loved fashion and already had the clientele to open up the men’s and women’s boutique in 2014. “It just made sense,” she said.
What’s it like being a woman in the sports industry?
She told stories of how lots of people often don’t give her respect when doing business because “they don’t think you’re going to speak up” when needed. It’s a shame that she still experiences some doubtful businesspeople, but she told us some stories of how she has kicked the disrespectful assuming people into breaking their stereotype of women in business. “Now that I’ve been in it a few years, I feel I have earned the respect of typical people.” There is a need to be a bit mean to earn respect in the male dominated place, so “stand up for your ideas and stay true to yourself!”
Got any advice for us undergraduates on career and beyond college?
“Think about the entry level job of the career rather than just the end job that you want.” She came in thinking she wanted to do broadcast journalism and realized that she wasn’t in love with the entry level jobs before she could make it to the big job and that caused her to rethink careers. “Get some experience in what you think you want to do.” Ari got to intern with the Men’s Basketball team as Student Secretary which led to more internships and the desire to keep working in that industry.
What was it like starting your own business out of college?
Coming from a family where both parents were entrepreneurs, Ari wasn’t wanting to be an entrepreneur after seeing how much they were always working and traveling. Nonetheless, she joked “but it felt like it was in my blood.” She was honestly “thrown into the fire” left to figure it out as she went, but she says “the leap of faith to go on my own was worth it knowing that I would be doing all the work and get paid for all of it rather than giving a percentage back to the firm.” Starting with just the money from graduation, the timing was pinnacle as she got her first client during spring break of her senior year and the client took a chance with her too. They are still working together today.
Networking Tips/ Advice on Personal Brand?
“Having the right connections are what gave me the confidence to start!” Also, PR is often just based on word of mouth from current clients, so it was necessary she represented herself positively. Also, “You are always on the clock as an entrepreneur, you got to be conscious of owning your brand.”
Do you have a mentor? Are you finding yourself in a mentor position now?
Other agents were often her mentors to ask for advice when first starting. But, she found out most of what she knows by experimenting and learning from failures. As she brought along interns, she feels she is “definitely in a mentor position now because I didn’t have much mentoring in my beginning steps”.
Biggest challenge you’ve faced in your entrepreneurial path?
“Getting paid!” because when starting from the ground, she was continuing to put everything she made into growing her business. This side of entrepreneurship is often overlooked, but Ari gave us a perspective of how her firm took a while to reach the success it currently has.
What is your average day like? How do you balance work and other parts of your life?
“My average day starts at waking up at 6:30, getting into the office by 9:30am and checking emails, pitching ideas- there is always something coming up.” She de-stresses often by working out, yoga, and red wine which we could all relate to. Also, Ari spoke on the importance of having good friends surrounding you that are supportive of what you do because you have to dedicate so much of your time as an entrepreneur to creating and improving your idea.
What’s next for you?
“I’m currently enjoying where I am,” Ari says, which is something that surprised us because we always see entrepreneurs as working adamantly towards the next big idea. Ari said she has a dream job to work for an individual team and be the head of PR for the whole team.
She left us on this note of advice:
“Be careful who you share your dreams with because they might make it into their own. Just do what you are doing and continue to work hard on those dreams.”
And that is exactly what we are doing.