My name is Emmy Severs, and I am a 2022 graduate of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. When I graduated with a major in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, I took my stationery company, Lemon Milk Paper Co, full time.
Lemon Milk Paper Co specializes in illustrated paper goods, stationery, stickers and other gifts. We are proud to be owned and operated in West Virginia. I design and illustrate all of my products and sell them through multiple channels including my online storefront and wholesale, which contributes to the majority of my sales. You can find Lemon Milk Paper Co stationery in retail stores across the country.
Attending WVU provided me with valuable skills and experiences that contributed to my success in the business world. Here are 10 things I learned at WVU that helped my business succeed:
1. It’s okay to fail
When you are in business, failing is inevitable. Instead of dwelling on failure, use it as an opportunity to pivot, learn, improve, and grow.
2. Take note of when you are most creative and use it to your advantage
My business is built on creativity. If I’m not feeling creative, I can’t produce new greeting card designs or brainstorm new products. Dr. Carrie White taught us in ENTR 405 to define when and where we feel most creative. By understanding how we operate as people, we can optimize our creativity and innovate more effectively.
3. Build relationships with your customers
My business is built on the relationships I have with my retailers. I even consider some close friends. By building relationships with your customers, you will gain loyalty, repeat business, and advocates for your brand.
4. Don’t burn yourself out
It is important to work hard and hustle, but it’s also important to give your mind and body the rest it deserves. If I am reaching a point of burnout, I feel uninspired, a lack of creativity, and sometimes, resentment towards my own business. When I am feeling like this, I can’t propel my business forward. This is why it’s important to take care of your mental health: it will help you and your business in the long run.
5. Know your target audience
This was a theme in the majority of my business classes at WVU. It is so important to know your target audience and how to sell to them. My target audience, for instance, is gift shops and boutique owners, so it makes the most sense to have wholesale catalogs on hand and to participate in trade shows.
6. Knowing how to sell is vital: we use sales in every aspect of life
We use sales in every aspect of our lives, regardless of whether you work a “sales” job or not. We are always selling something, whether it’s ourselves in an interview or a doctor “selling” you on a new medication. Sales skills have practical applications beyond the business realm. They help us communicate effectively, build relationships, solve problems, develop confidence, and become more resilient. You might consider building your sales skills by joining the Fastenal Sales Team like I did, and putting yourself to the test in professional competitions.
7. Being able to network and make connections will help expand your business
Through the Center for Career Development and other resources, WVU provided me with numerous networking opportunities that connected me with potential customers and partners to grow my business. By connecting with new people, you can increase your sales, access resources and expertise from others, gain referrals and brand visibility, and find opportunities for collaboration. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be uncomfortable. It’s the only way to grow personally and in business.
8. How to properly reach out to prospects and structure sales meetings
Before my classes at West Virginia University, I was basically “winging” it when it came to cold calls, prospecting, and sales meetings. After my classes with Dr. Emily Tanner and Dr. David Brauer, I was able to properly cold call prospects, leave voicemails, structure emails, and structure sales meetings as well.
9. Have empathy for your customers
Dr. David Brauer taught me the importance of having empathy for your customers. By putting yourself in your customer's shoes, you can understand their needs and how your product can help meet them. He required us to read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in MKTG 321. I recommend this book to everyone because it changed my perspective and showed me just how important empathy and kindness really is.
10. Take advantage of the resources WVU offers
During my time at WVU, I took advantage of all WVU had to offer my business, like working with the Morris L. Hayhurst Launch Lab, joining the Fastenal Sales Team, and speaking with my professors to gain a better insight into the business world. The WVU Launch Lab is a resource I recommend to anyone interested in entrepreneurship. Even if you don't have an idea yet, the team at the Launch Lab will help get you on the right track with ideation, prototyping, pitch competitions, product photography, structuring the legalities of your business, and more.
The best way to learn is by doing, and I’ve learned a lot by running my business. However, without the lessons I learned in the Chambers College’s Entrepreneurship program, I wouldn’t have become the businesswoman I am today.
Owner, Lemon Milk Paper Co
Chambers College alumna
"Let's Talk Business" is a series of guest blogs written by members of the Chambers College community. All views expressed in this post are the author's own.
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