Many college students have goals to own their own business one day, but few have already achieved that before graduation. Lauren Runquist, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri has started her own company and online boutique, LaQuist. Runquist is a strategic communications major with a minor in business and entrepreneurship.
Her Campus Mizzou: What is the general goal of your online boutique?
Lauren Rundquist: My goal for LaQuist is to combine my passions for art and entrepreneurship into a business the gives back to people and places, near and far. I do this through the creation of wearable art in the form of custom, hand-painted shoes. Giving back comes into play by supporting socially minded business models like the TOMS One for One Movement, creating shoe lines that benefit charitable organizations and causes like Solea Water, and promoting sustainability and recycling efforts like Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program.
HCM: When/why did you start your Etsy shop? How did you make it grow?
LR: I started LaQuist as a college sophomore here at Mizzou, with a small personal investment of about $50, a tiny space to work out of, and hopes to make a positive global impact. The key to making LaQuist grow was simply doing what I love, and that started a chain reaction — passionately produced products lead to positive customer experiences, which lead to word of mouth and growth. I still work out of the same tiny space, but today my shoes adorn the feet of customers across six continents, and TOMS One for One has matched hundreds of those orders, giving a pair of shoes to a child in need with each one.
HCM: Can you explain the work you are doing with Solea Water?
LR: Solea Water is a non-profit with a mission to alleviate water poverty by providing long-term sustainable water solutions in ways that create jobs and bring hope to communities in Latin America. I have teamed up with Solea Water for a shoe line that generates funding and awareness for their organization, in addition to being matched by TOMS One for One. Fifteen dollars from every pair of LaQuist + Solea Water shoes purchased goes directly toward Solea Water’s clean water projects in Latin America and creates the opportunity for conversation about the global water crisis and a shared vision of a healthier world without water poverty.
HCM: What will you be doing when you go to Panama to work with them?
LR: One out of every nine people in the world are lacking life’s most basic need, clean drinking water. And in the Panamanian township of Bisira where Solea Water has specifically worked, 89.5% of residents do not have access to safe water to drink. I want to do something about that. The creation of this shoe line is one small way that I can, and this summer I plan to travel to Panama with Solea Water, volunteering with their clean water projects there, and depending on the success of the shoe line, seeing first hand the difference it makes.
HCM: What are your future plans with your Etsy shop? Do you plan to extend your business?
LR: With future charitable partnerships and shoe lines in the works, my hope is that LaQuist will continue to evolve in a direction of positive global impact, and that I will continue to evolve along with it, through art and entrepreneurship, and a bit of adventure along the way. I have found that growth takes an incredible amount of intention and effort, but that no matter how much I plan, there will be surprises and unexpected opportunities around the corner. I’m excited to see what’s next!
HCM: Are you involved in any other organizations/clubs at Mizzou?
LR: During my past three and a half years at Mizzou, I have been involved in many different organizations and clubs, gaining new and exciting experiences with each one. Currently, I am part of the Griffith’s Leadership Society for Women and I am a member of a secret society here on campus. Recently, I joined the Mizzou Triathlon Team and am looking forward to competing in my very first sprint triathlon with them in late February!
HCM: What advice would you give to someone your age looking to start a business?
LR: Start. It’s as simple as that. Know your goal, take the first step, and the rest will follow. Not every idea will stick, but every attempt will teach you something. Recognize the value in where you are right now and all that you have at your fingertips. Being a student, for example, can be one of your greatest assets. Don’t hold back for the things you’re initially lacking — money, space, experience, etc. — instead, think creatively about the ways you can work around them. Then do what you know, what you love, what makes you happy. Be flexible and open and eager to learn. See the beauty in the unexpected. Keep your eyes on your goal and move toward it with passion and integrity, and by always being true to who you are.
Lauren’s charitable efforts have been awarded with the 2012 Chancellor’s Excellence Award in Community Service Leadership and she has been recognized with the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s 2013 National Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award.