From Internships to Entrepreneurship

CoB students Cristy Asturias and John McCann started their own businesses.
CoB students Cristy Asturias and John McCann started their own businesses.

The Design of Meaning

Growing up in a family business often gives a young person insight as to just how much work, time, and effort is really involved in being your own boss. The result of all that insight often leads those young people to think about pursuing a different career path—one that allows them a bit more time to enjoy life. Such was the case with Cristy Asturias, a senior in international business. “I saw how hard my parents worked building their retail jewelry business from the ground up and how little time they had for anything else. I thought I wanted something different.”

But that began to change in high school when Asturias was taking art classes—one of her favorite subjects. Following Katrina, the students had an assignment to create a representation of what the city was experiencing. Asturias designed a fleur-de-lis with a heart and two hands (one black and one white) interwoven into the design. “I thought of it as the New Orleans community united in love for our great city,” Asturias says. Her design was selected to be part of a special exhibition held at Loyola. (Asturias’ first trip to Loyola’s campus was to attend the opening reception with her dad). When Asturias’ mom saw her daughter’s work, she sent the design to the Thailand factory that created all the other pieces for Mom’s retail shop—unbeknownst to Asturias. When the high school student saw her sketches as a finished product, she was thrilled. And, because she was helping out in the store by that time, she got to see people reacting to her work. When customers realized Asturias was the designer, they would tell her what her art meant to them. “Their stories meant so much to me because I realized I could touch people with my designs.”

She spent last summer interning at that same Thailand factory that produced her first work, learning all about the production side of the business and creating more sketches. She is inspired by the images that Louisianans hold dear and the meanings behind those images.

Asturias has realized everyone’s interpretation of her work is different. This really hit home when she recently created a broken fleur-de-lis with the idea that one person would wear one piece and a special someone in their life would wear the other. Asturias thought it would be a nice mother-daughter thing. Then, a customer remarked that she was going to wear one piece and send the other to her husband based in the military overseas. Asturias then realized how personal her creations may be to someone else. “The reactions of customers to my designs really make me think outside the box.”

Asturias now oversees the newly opened family store, Sterling Silvia on Magazine St. She knows that for the next 5 – 8 years, that store will be her life—her baby. Just like it was for her parents when they first started 20 years ago—and that’s okay with her.

A Guy with a Purpose

It all started with a class assignment when John McCann—or John Mac as he’s known to the really cool—was a first-semester freshman sitting in an Intro to Business class at Loyola. The assignment was to write a business plan for a fictional company of the student’s choosing. Since one of McCann’s interests has always been fashion, he wrote a plan focused on launching a clothing line. At the end of his first year in the CoB, he decided to act on that plan, and his retail clothing line E.R.O.S. was born. E.R.O.S. stands for Everyone Rises Over Struggles, and with little help and zero funding to date, he’s in business—figuring it out as he goes.

McCann oversees all aspects of the operation from development to production to shipping. Some of the pieces in the line, which includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, cardigans, caps, and beanies, are manufactured in-state with others produced in China at federally-approved manufacturers. It takes about three weeks to a month for the finished product to arrive from China, so McCann is always working six months out—planning product releases.

His inspiration for his clothing line comes from random creative moods and sources—music, art, objects—that he finds interesting and moving. The brand is targeted to young people (12 – 25 year-olds) who relate to the E.R.O.S. message of “Fashion with a Purpose.” Sometimes McCann will create pieces with a particular fundraiser in mind with proceeds going to causes including education or specific nonprofits like Covenant House. The brand is available online and in several local shops.

The Loyola marketing major lives his brand, bringing his message, as a motivational speaker, to area schools and community groups. He tries to make his audience understand that they must always have faith and work to overcome the struggles life throws at them. McCann’s faith has its roots in God, and he encourages the young people to whom he speaks to find the roots of their own faith.

McCann travels twice a year to the Magic trade show in Las Vegas—“an incubator of fashion, where new trends surface and develop into what will be seen on the consumer.” He plans to return in August as a vendor for the first time and hopes his line will be picked up by one of the national retailers. He has his eye on Urban Outfitters. “I have a lot of work to do following graduation in May to get ready for the event. I need to secure some funding and develop my PR campaign. I interned this past summer with Levi in New York and learned so much, it was an amazing experience. Now I have to apply that knowledge to my own brand.”

McCann is working on a new business plan—one with many more details so that he can grow his business and realize the success he dreams of—a true testament to rising over struggles.

View the complete spring 2012 issue of Loyola Executive.

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