By: Stephanie Scott
Photos by: Deniece Griffin
Jasmine Elliot is a Spanish Language and International Business major and expected to graduate from Georgia State in May 2020 with a very promising future in the field of entrepreneurship. In 2018, Elliot was selected as a Frances Wood Wilson Foundation Scholar. While interning for a startup, she is also making plans to launch her own company. She’s a female force to be reckoned with.
“You have to believe in your idea so much that other people believe in it just as much.” –Jasmine Elliot
How did you hear about Students2Startups?
I actually saw it on an email. I had just subscribed to the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Institute’s Pantherpreneur Newsletter. I was trying to get involved because I just transferred to Georgia State and I wanted to meet some new people. I saw information about Students2Startups at the bottom of one of their emails around the end of Spring semester. I really wanted to work for a startup because I want to start a company of my own.
What is the startup company you work for?
I work for a company called Freeing Returns. It’s a mobile app where shoppers are able to do hassle free returns. On the app, it corresponds with POS (point of sale) software, which is also owned by the parent company to Freeing Returns. Through the app, your transaction will already be in the system and you can select what item you want to return. Then, you pick your return method–you can bring it to the store, or you can have it sent back in the mail. The shipping label and packaging will be sent to you and we take care of everything from there. For retailers, It helps them, because they are able to see what items were returned. Therefore, it will help improve the quality of their products.
What are your duties as an intern with Freeing Returns?
I do sales and marketing. I’m the only intern, so I pretty much do everything under that umbrella, including social media as well. I’m working on consumer explainer videos, so basically making content to explain what the product is to the end-user. Although marketing isn’t my major, I’m learning as I go and I’m learning a lot.
What have you learned from interning with Freeing Returns?
I’ve had a lot of internships in different places, but this internship I can say has been the most challenging but also the most rewarding. I’ve been able to take the time to learn. My boss, the founder of Freeing Returns, Barbara Jones, asked me what I wanted to learn and what she could give me to help me gain from this internship. Also, because it’s a startup company, everybody is learning together. I can say to the other employees, “I’m learning about content marketing today.” Then a developer is like, “Oh cool, what’s that?” And we learn about it together. Everybody wants to know about everything and I like how we’re all involved in the processes of the company.
What have you learned from your Robinson College of Business classes?
I took the WomenLead class and the biggest takeaway I learned from that class was reading the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, who was the COO of Facebook. In her book, she talked about how to balance your personal life with your business life. She talks about how you can have it all and not have to put your professional goals on hold to have a family. She also talks about just being a woman in the male dominated corporate world. She had to learn how to adjust to gain respect and establish boundaries in a predominantly male field. For example, if she were to bump into a man in the office. She couldn’t be timid and say, “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry.” Instead, she had to train herself to be straight forward, stern, and say, “Excuse me,” and keep it moving, like a man would.
What do you like about working for a startup company?
I’ve learned from doing internships and job shadows that corporate is not for me. It’s too rigid. It’s too “inside the box”. Yes, I have my job title as Marketing & Sales, but my job changes to fit whatever is needed from me in that moment. It’s ever changing. I get to do tasks off-site. We’re only in the office Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays everyone works from home. There’s flexibility in a startup. That’s what I love about it.
What are some of your own entrepreneurship ventures?
When I was 7, I told my mom I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I was 18. She looked at me, perplexed, and said, “Okay.” But I was serious. It wasn’t so much about being a millionaire but more so about being a powerful woman. My mom and I love Oprah. We used to watch her every day, like clockwork. I just remember Oprah having her girls school and doing all these philanthropic things. I would love to open a girls school – a trade high school for the arts. So after talking with my mom about it, she told me, “Well if you’re going to be a millionaire by the time you’re 18, you need to start working. What are you gonna do?” So, I was always into fashion and arts. My mom is a painter, so I took her acrylic paints and I started a business designing peoples jeans and painting on them and they would pay me for it. As I got older, I started doing T-shirts. When I was in high school, I did hair bows and bow ties for everyone. I even did people’s bow ties for prom. I was the girl that made things.
What pitch competitions have you participated in?
My senior year, I participated in a youth business competition called the Youth Business Shark Tank and I won the in my hometown, Douglasville. My business was called Your Prom Stylist. The idea was a truck that provided an “experience” for picking out dresses for prom. You’d bring your friends, try on dresses and shoes, plan your hair and nails and basically get everything done in one place. For a year after that, I kept practicing my pitch and I was able to pitch in front of Rodney Sampson, who is one of the executive producers of Shark Tank. Last year, I had the opportunity to compete in the Big Ideas + Smart Solutions Student Entrepreneurs’ Pitch competition sponsored by WICERS (Women in Construction, Engineering, and Related Services) and WEI (Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative). I won that competition last April. It was a three month long program where I had mentors help me develop my business model. From that, my idea evolved to make Your Prom Stylist a mobile application. The user will be able to fill out a questionnaire, and it will create suggestions for them based on their style. They will also be able to find dresses in their area based on the questionnaire and once they’ve selected what dress they want, it won’t be suggested to anyone else in the area. It solves the problem of someone having the same dress as you at your prom. If you want your dress to be made or altered, there will be a section listing seamstresses in your area. Also, I hope to have a partnership with Styleseat, an app that connects you to hair stylists, makeup artists, nail technicians, and other beauty industry professionals, so that girls can also use the app to set up appointments to have all of their beauty needs met for prom as well. In the off-season I hope to focus on weddings and other special events.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Entrepreneurship is the willingness to take risks. Entrepreneurship is….. risky. For lack of a better term. You have to believe in your idea so much that other people believe in it just as much as you do. It’s not so much about the idea. People should be willing to invest in you, because they are investing in you. Not your idea. Not what you’re doing. They need to know that you believe in yourself and your idea so much that you’re going to work so hard that you won’t fail. It doesn’t matter what problems come up or what challenges you face, you’re going to push through until the end. I think that’s why I’ve been successful in the spaces that I’ve competed in, because people believe in me, because I believe in me.