As an undecided freshmen at Iowa State, Ashley Jones didn’t know exactly where she wanted her adventure to take her. She did know that she wanted to launch her own business.
“I’ve always wanted to start my own business,” said Jones. “My parents have a business together and that’s encouraging. My grandma had her own art studio, so she’s a role model too.”
The “creative aspects, the planning, of the event and being organized” elements of the event management major drew her to pursue the profession of planning important events and gatherings.
Now a senior, Jones has a double major in event management and marketing with a minor in entrepreneurial studies. Jones will graduate this spring, but instead of sending out resumes, Jones will continue to build the start-up business plans she initiated while here at Iowa State.
Swoon Event Studio will be an online platform. Anyone planning an event can use the online features to design their own personal tablescapes and rent those items all in one location.
Jones credits Linda Niehm, a professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management, and Niehm’s AESHM 474: Entrepreneurship in Human Sciences course for helping her take the first steps in starting Swoon Event Studio.
“That class was the first time I had ever made a business plan," she said. "That was also the first time I ever did a pitch.”
Niehm will be the first to tell you that AESHM 474 is a unique class that gives students like Jones more opportunities to build on their business ideas.
“Some of the others [classes] certainly give you pieces of very solid information, and maybe help you to initially see, ‘Well, what would it take for a minimally viable idea,’” said Niehm. “But here [AESHM 474] we’re saying, ‘Let’s take that and really map it out and research it deeply’ — and it’s focused on human sciences related businesses.”
Niehm said the course complimented Jones’s desire to start her own business.
“Her work ethic is incredible," Niehm said. "She’s very mature, she’s open to giving advice to other students, and she has passion. She’s kind of like the perfect package.”
AESHM 474 was one of many resources Jones utilized while at Iowa State. She worked with CyStarters, a competitive 10-week summer accelerator where Iowa State students can work with expert mentors to develop their own business ideas. She also won the 2018 ISU Innovation Pitch Competition.
“She doesn’t miss an opportunity to share and pitch about her idea,” said Niehm.
Running a business while still in college isn’t a perfect formula. Time is a constant challenge that Jones runs into while juggling her responsibilities.
“Prioritizing my time [between] classes, working on Swoon — I also co-founded a food publication called Cardinal Eats at Iowa State,” said Jones. “That pretty much takes up my time.”
Despite the time crunch, Jones wouldn’t want her senior year any other way.
“I’ll be way more ahead than if I’m starting from scratch when I graduate,” Jones said.
“I just have a clearer path.”
Jones is putting the finishing touches on the website, but anyone can join the mailing list for updates and event planning tips at the following link: https://www.swooneventstudio.com/.