Campus Celeb: Tia and Karen

Have you ever wanted to build your personal brand to help you in your career? Well, our celebs this week, Tia James and Karen Spears, created a startup called Build Brand and Beyond, which helps students create a brand. Tia and Karen are both seniors from Chicago with an interest in communications and branding. Tia is a journalism major with an emphasis in strategic communications and Karen is a communication major minoring in business/entrepreneurship. Together they are an unbeatable duo. We chatted with them to learn about they started their startup and their path to success.

Photo taken by Rukiya Dykes. Instagram @treye.iii

Her Campus Mizzou: How did the two of you come up with the idea for Build Brand and Beyond?

Tia: Karen and I were a part of a summer program together in high school, and then we reconnected when we came to Mizzou. I noticed that she was extremely creative and wanted to work with her because she compliments my strategy-oriented mindset. Karen was working on her creative studio business, Kareracter, and I was in the beginning stages of starting my personal branding/life coaching business, so we thought it would be a great idea to get together to create this full-service startup.

Karen: Friends would ask us questions about how to start a business or how to stand out in the job search process, and we realized that many of them either didn’t know what personal branding is or what the importance of having one is. There was a void that needed to be filled, and we wanted to fill it in an accessible and simplified way for college women. Thus, we created an affordable package for women to invest in to get strategy and a visual brand to launch their professional careers.

HCM: What do you look for when you are creating a person's brand?

Karen: The essence of the person—you are the central figure of your brand, so you have to make sure your personality comes across in all of the aspects. Your logo, colors and overall design are a reflection of you.

Tia: The message they want to get across—who are they trying to reach, and what do they want to tell them?

HCM: What is the most valuable thing each of you has learned while being a founder of this startup?

Tia: Having an accountability partner and someone to bounce ideas off of are so necessary because you can’t do everything on your own. Also, maintain a balance between planning and putting those plans into action. Don’t get so caught up in the planning phase that you never actually get to act on them, and don’t be so eager to jump right into to your business that you don’t actually take the time to plan some things out.

HCM: You mentioned you spoke at the 2016 Women's Leadership Conference. What is something you shared at this conference you think is helpful to women leaders on campus?

Karen: One of the main points of our presentation was the importance of consistency. If you are inconsistent in your brand visuals/image and strategy/message, it confuses the people you are trying to reach and you will lose credibility. Women leaders on campus can leverage their personal brands by showcasing the value they bring to their organizations.

HCM: Have you faced any adversity as women in the business world? If so, how have you overcome?

Tia: Outside of Build, Brand & Beyond, I have had thoughts in internships of not feeling as competent as other workers. Also, with issues like the gender wage gap and the U.S. not having a nationwide paid family leave policy, doubts that I won’t be taken serious in the business world arise. But what I’ve learned through Build, Brand & Beyond is that having confidence in yourself and your abilities comes from being self-aware and knowing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can easily show how you are an asset to the team.

Karen: The most adversity you will face starting out as a college student in business is the amount of hours you have to put in in addition to being a full-time college student. You are working extremely long hours learning about what processes work for you and how your audience will respond. Advantages of being a woman in business is that there are many resources for us to grow, including being part of professional women’s groups and access to funding.

HCM: Are either of you involved in anything else here on campus?

Karen: I spend most of my time working with the Entrepreneurship Alliance group on campus. If the thought of starting your own business excites you, I recommend reaching out the the Entrepreneurship professors in Cornell!

Tia: I spend most of my time working at the Career Center in the Student Success Center. I’m a supervisor, and I get to work on a lot of projects and help instill good employee and customer experiences. I am there almost every day, so if you see me, say hi!