Management entrepreneur learns by doing with confidence
Confidence was instilled in Katherine Nahigian at an early age, and the senior entrepreneurship management major is reaping rewards today because of it.
“My dad would drive me to school each morning and on the way he’d quiz me about a lot of things,” the Columbia native said. “But the last question he always asked was, ‘What can you do in life?’ My answer was always, ‘Anything I put my mind to.’ ‘’
Katherine, who will graduate from Clemson in May, says she’s not a traditional learner and doesn’t consider herself a scholar. But she has put her mind, and plenty of energy to, many extracurricular endeavors, and a start-up jewelry business while at Clemson.
“A traditional class isn’t my ideal learning environment,” Katherine said. “I’ve found that experiencing things in and out of the classroom, and learning from my successes and mistakes, is what teaches me the most.”
Katherine launched ReTrend, her jewelry business, in 2016 as part of a College of Business “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” class taught by Chad Navis, Arthur M. Spiro Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Department of Management. Though experience has taught her plenty, she credits Navis with inspiring her to escalate ReTrend from a class assignment to something she could take with her when she leaves Clemson.
“If it does become bigger, I’m going to have to build a sustainable foundation to help it grow. As I grow, I want it to grow with me, maybe by expanding into some more sophisticated pieces.”
Katherine came to Clemson with the intention of majoring in biology. But she decided to follow her heart instead of her head, which has taken her down a path she hadn’t envisioned.
“After taking my first class with professor Navis, I liked the idea of entrepreneurship so much that I enrolled in two more of his classes and decided the independence these project-based classes offered was what I wanted.”
Navis said it isn’t uncommon for entrepreneurial students to excel in the business school’s experience-oriented classes more than in traditional learning environments.
“What’s tested in the traditional classroom doesn’t always predict success. And, even some of the top students wouldn’t excel at entrepreneurship. Sometimes doing, inspiring, networking and connecting are under appreciated learning tools,” he said.
Katherine purchases her earrings, bracelets and necklaces from third-party vendors and sells them under the ReTrend brand online and at holiday markets for between $10 and $30. She wears many hats as sole proprietor of the start-up, including designing and creating packaging, marketing, being a webmaster and managing finances.
“I call it ReTrend because trends come and go, but history repeats itself in the world of fashion,” she said. “At this point I don’t see it as my primary source of income in the future, but ReTrend is something I’ll take with me, like the memories of all my experiences here.”
Katherine says the extra-curricular involvement and project-based classes have taught her as much, and sometimes more, than she learned in traditional classes. She led her sorority’s fundraiser, the biggest of its kind on campus; interned in student-athlete career development and directed Clemson Miracle’s fundraising for a children’s hospital.
“I’ve learned so much by putting myself out there. What usually happens is I jump at the chance to participate, then another opportunity is created through a connection from the previous one,” she said.
Navis said entrepreneurship requires a lot of hard work, but people like Katherine have a passion for what they’re doing, so it doesn’t seem like work. He added that a lot can be said for experiential learning.
“Sometimes, students who are very capable of getting A’s, decide instead to redirect some of that study energy into extra-curricular endeavors. A lot can be learned from that approach to education, and Katherine is living proof,” he said.
“When people look at my resume, they never ask about my GPA, because they assume I’m an honors student, when in reality I am not. I may not be the smartest person in the room but I’m confident, innovative, organized and resourceful. I can figure out a solution to a problem with the best of them by approaching it from a different angle,” Katherine said.
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