These four alumnae represent the entrepreneurial spirit and leadership instilled in Elon students.
Elon University’s alumni base includes an amazing group of women that are leading the way in their respective industries. Women with entrepreneurial spirit and drive to be leaders hard at work, creating change in their communities. These strong businesswomen are just a handful of Elon’s amazing alumnae that have founded their own companies and they exemplify what it means to give back and be a leader.
Sarah Keach Baucom ’06
Co-founder of Girl Tribe Co.
Sarah Keach Baucom ’06 chose Elon because of its smaller environment that allowed students to really explore who they are as a person. Studying as a sociology major with dance and anthropology as minors, she was also very involved on campus as a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority and as a volunteer for the Elon Homes for Children — one of her fondest memories.
Following graduation, she explored several different jobs, ultimately going back to school for her interior design degree while teaching yoga on the side.
“I was just having so much fun on the quest to finding my calling,” Baucom said.
In 2014, Baucom and her graphic design business partner created a space where other creative women like themselves could explore entrepreneurship. Girl Tribe Co. was the result, starting with only $200 and a pair of women locally creating women-positive graphic tees.
In 2015, they launched the first pop-up to sell their goods in-person to customers through a curated marketplace with specific messaging on supporting small businesses. As of this year, they have hosted 42 large-scale events featuring thousands of amazing businesses with tens of thousands of customers who come to support, shop and have a good time.
“Creating a company that was brand-first allowed us to operate with flexibility while we tested what the market wanted at the time and what could be sustainable,” Baucom said.
In 2017, just three years later, they opened their first storefront, and they now have three brick and mortars in the Charlotte area with the hopes of onboarding four more in the next two years. With graphic tees still being their bread and butter, Girl Tribe Co. launched their own production facility where they create 80% of their own items, with the goal of making that 100% by the end of this year.
They employ over 50 ambitious creative women with a huge focus on leadership training, customer satisfaction and developing the next generation of talent.
Baucom values the connections she made at Elon that helped her grow into the business leader she is today. “At Elon, they are here for you unlike any community I have ever been a part of in my adult life,” Baucom said. “You truly never know until you try, reach out with an idea. No idea is perfect, but you have the resources there to help you get a game plan together, scrap it and start over again and again if need be.”
Nneka Enurah ’11
Founder of Celebrate & Elevate
Nneka Enurah found Elon through a summer high school program. The moment she set foot in the School of Communications, she knew she was home. Enurah received a grant from Elon as well as a four-year scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. While at Elon, she majored in media arts and entertainment. Enurha also served as a resident advisor, worked with America Reads through the Kernodle Center, was an active member of the Multicultural Student Council and participated as a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Enurah started Celebrate & Elevate in 2021 with the intent of spotlighting high-achieving women during the pandemic. Celebrate & Elevate is a professional community that supports women of all backgrounds, with the idea of hosting networking events alongside coaching experiences for professional women to further grow in their industries.
Studies show that women leaders are twice as likely as men to be mistaken for someone that is junior to them in the workplace. Other studies show that 37% of women leaders have had a coworker get credit for their ideas, 61% of women founders report self-funding their businesses, and approximately 43% tend to report burnout, as compared to only 31% reported by men at the same leadership level.
“Women need access and support to thrive,” said Enurah, “When women thrive, our communities thrive as well. Celebrate & Elevate empowers women through content, coaching and community events.”
Her business rapidly took off, and Enurah had to learn to refine her offerings and scale her business so that she would not get burnt out. She pivoted to outsourcing some of her daily tasks by utilizing virtual assistants.
“The biggest struggle, however, is a lack of funding for Black-owned startups like my own,” said Enurah. “Throughout my career, I’ve been able to lean on lessons that I learned not only in the classroom, but through my extracurriculars as well, Understanding how to lead and follow, compromise, and make tough decision are all skills I gained from my time at Elon,” she explained.
This year, Celebrate & Elevate launched The Entrepreneurial Spirit Summit, taking place at Elon University on Saturday, July 29. This summit will bring together 200 professional women from across the country. This event is headlined by Fawn Weaver, CEO of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey and USA Today and New York Times best-selling author.
Enurah’s advice to students aspiring to start their own company is, “find a problem and then figure out a solution, be adaptable and persistent, things change and you’ll need to pivot from time to time, but if you stay true to yourself and your vision, you can achieve success.”
Emily Grey ’07
Founder of The Flourish Market
Emily Grey originally came to Elon as a dance major, but when she was faced with an injury early on in her collegiate career, she went to the Student Professional Development Center to find a new passion, where she decided on being a business major. At a tragic time when she lost a special part of her, Grey began a new path toward entrepreneurship that led to something much bigger.
“Elon is so great as far as ensuring that every single one of their students succeeds, and is not just seen and heard, but on a successful path,” said Grey.
Following graduation, Grey dove into the corporate world, taking on different roles at Credit Suisse that took her to both Raleigh and the U.K. In her free time outside of work, she volunteered with non-profits and social enterprises across the world to help people with their fundraising efforts to buy fairly made goods. “I loved this so much, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that and make it a career,” she said.
While scrolling on Pinterest, she came across an idea to start a boutique on wheels and bring together her passions and skills from both Elon and her corporate job.
“When I would travel, my friends would always ask me to bring back another necklace from Ethiopia, or another leather bag and this and that from my last trip,” said Grey, “I really connected with all of these social enterprises that had so many cool products, but they were the world’s best kept secret.”
She found an old uniform delivery truck on Craigslist and in October 2015, she launched The Flourish Market, doing over 100 pop-ups that year. Several Elon alums even reached out to her to host her truck, which she feels embodies the university’s messaging of helping each other reach their goals.
A year later, she received a grant to open her first store, and in 2018 her company hit one million dollars in revenue. What started as 10 partners turned into 200 quickly, and every product sold drives positive change in the world. Grey looks to buy from people that align with the values that exist within her team and community of customers.
“We have bath bombs made by adults with disabilities, jewelry made by women that are coming out of domestic violence situations, leather bags made by women crushing the stigma of HIV and AIDS in Ethiopia, we even have baby rattles made by Syrian refugee moms in Turkey and clothing made by sex trafficking survivors in Nepal,” said Grey.
Navigating entrepreneurship can be hard, but Grey was up for the challenge, and when it was time to open a new space in downtown Raleigh, she knew she needed help from her community. She posted a sign-up link for those that wanted to help and in less than an hour she had over 200 women from the community sign up to help them move. “It was such a powerful reminder of community, I’ll never forget it,” said Grey.
Grey looks back on her time at Elon and how it prepared her. She received a Presidential scholarship at Elon and was a part of the Periclean scholars where she studied in Honduras with her cohort of students to problem-solve and build positive change while studying global issues. She also served as President for InterVarsity and as a tour guide for Admissions during her time at Elon.
Her biggest piece of advice to students looking to start a business is to stay in alignment with your values and keep moving forward. “The biggest thing Elon gave me in preparing for post-grad life, is walking out of there already a leader,” said Grey.
Laura Creech Schaefer ’02
Founder of Wandering Lark: Artisan Soy Candles
Laura Creech Schaefer is an Alamance County native and no stranger to Elon. Having seen both of her parents work for the university for a number of years, when it was time to choose where to go to college, she knew Elon was the right choice. Majoring in business administration with a minor in psychology, she says she received a “top-notch” education, and also met her husband, John Schaefer ’02, along the way.
“It’s amazing to think that my connection to Elon goes back so many years and that the university has played such a significant role in shaping my life,” said Schaefer, “to this day, I still feel a sense of pride whenever I walk across campus.”
Schaefer received two merit-based scholarships from Elon that she credits with helping her pursue the career opportunities that she wanted. She went on to earn her MBA from Elon as well in 2006.
In 2016, she started “Wandering Lark,” to share her love of candles with others. The candles are a true reflection of herself, a creative person with a passion for creating a cozy and welcoming environment through her premium soy wax candles.
“Starting Wandering Lark has been an incredible journey, and I feel so fortunate to be able to share my love of candles with others,” said Schaefer, “there’s nothing quite like seeing the joy that they bring to people’s lives, and that’s what inspires us to keep creating beautiful, high-quality products.”
Like many other businesses, the pandemic caused her company to experience supply chain disruptions and she had to quickly pivot operations to keep up with demand. She stayed true to her mission though and always maintained a high quality while navigating these challenges.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that our candles can now be found in over 120 stores across the United States, it’s been amazing to see how our brand has grown and how people have responded so positively to our products,” said Schaefer.
Schaefer credits Elon for helping prepare her for the professional world through the many group projects and collaboration opportunities that she had in the business program. She learned how to effectively communicate with others, manage conflicts and inspire a team to achieve success, skills that have been invaluable to her.
“For me, the best part of running my own company is that I get to use my creativity to build something that brings joy to others. Whether it’s through creating beautiful candles or supporting local non-profits through our Rescue candle, I’m able to make a positive impact in my community and the world,” she said.