By MAGGIE KARRS
At the Small Business Panel held by Career Services on Feb. 18 in Lee Hall, six former University of Mary Washington students provided an inside look at the intricacies of owning their own business.
The six speakers’ businesses ranged from a contracting firm for the Department of Defense to a consignment bridal shop, with numbers of employees ranging from one to 55.
Leslie Tilghman, vice president of Finance for the Alumni Board and a small business owner herself, moderated the panel.
She posed 10 questions to the panel before questions were opened to the audience.
When asked which classes a current student planning on starting their own business should take, the panelists agreed that accounting, economics and marketing classes would all be helpful in both designing and running a small business.
Several panelists also mentioned art classes as an unconventional, but very helpful, set of courses when owning for owning a small business.
“I wish that I would have taken more art classes because there is that part of it with your business, designing your logo and your brand,” said panelist Jay Parrish. Parrish was a member of the class of 2003 and now co-owns Parrish Learning Zone, a tutoring center, with his wife.
Two of the panelists, Alicia Austin and Megan Parry, are partners, and own the vintage consignment shop Forage in downtown Fredericksburg. They stressed the importance of choosing work that you love.
“I’m always inspired at work. There’s never a day that I don’t want to go to work,” said Parry. “Getting into something that you love, that you’re passionate about, that interests you, I don’t think I could handle the stress if it wasn’t for the fact that I love what I do.”
“Find something you’re passionate about,” Parrish agreed.
When asked if any one person had helped them reach the position they have achieved, each stated that having a support system helps a great deal when opening a business.
“It’s definitely a collective effort,” Carl Lawson remarked. Lawson is the co-owner of CapabiIities Based Assessment (CBA) and Associates, a contracting company for the Department of Defense.
Students found the speakers engaging and appreciated the effort made by Career Services.
“I’m a business major, but I don’t know what I want to do, what sector I want to be in, so I like going to all the things Career Services offers,” said senior Courtney Lowrandrowski.
Others viewed the panel as a helpful guide for when they launch their own businesses.
Senior Logan Martinez articulated his future plans, saying, “I have an idea. I’m an International Affairs major and what I would like to do is to set up a language institute where people can come and learn any language they want.”
The other speakers on the panel were Linda Fairall, UMW class of 2006 and owner of the bridal consignment store Fabulous Frocks and Erik Bruner-Yang, UMW class of 2007, chef and owner of the restaurant Toki Underground, which specializes in Taiwanese noodles.