Something Ventured, Education Gained

When Carissa Gallo was 5 years old, she opened up a lemonade stand in her hometown of Terryville, Conn. Few drivers stopped by her street to purchase a glass, and the young businesswoman swore she would never try this again.

But failure did not suit Gallo. Like any true entrepreneur, she had tenacity, a drive to succeed.

At Long Island University (LIU), the economics major is getting the opportunity she craves, thanks to a new initiative designed to give students experiential learning that is so vital to today’s 21st-century marketplace. Gallo (pictured) serves as operations manager of The Student Body, LIU Post’s first startup run by students that features designer-label clothing for men and women. The store held its grand opening on Nov. 12, 2013 at the university’s Brookville, N.Y., campus.

“I plan to be involved in the venture capital world after graduation,” says the Class of 2014 graduate. “That industry favors experience in the startup world.”

With designer brands that include Cheryl, Akademics and Romeo and Juliet Couture, The Student Body offers everything from men’s scarves and hats to women’s clothing and accessories, all geared toward today’s price-savvy and stylish college students.

“The prices we offer are unparalleled,” says Gallo, who worked with faculty advisors and an LIU committee of student colleagues to select and purchase inventory from New York City wholesalers. “We purchased the clothing in numerous showrooms around Manhattan, and the experience is one of the best ones I ever had, as I learned much more than any class I could have taken on the subject.”

Joining Gallo in her efforts is Tamir Dayya, an LIU Class of 2013 graduate who serves as special projects coordinator for the university and business advisor for the store. “The Student Body gives LIU students the business experience that employers are looking for,” he says. “When they can say that they ran a business and made executive-level decisions about marketing, management, publicity, and selecting inventory, they’re more attractive to employers.”

All proceeds from the store go to funding LIU scholarships as well as supporting future student ventures—which will include a confectionary, computer store, and other businesses—on campus, providing essential real-world learning opportunities to those seeking startup business experience.

The idea of placing an on-campus student-run clothing store inside Hillwood Commons at LIU Post was the brainchild of Dr. Kimberly R. Cline, president of LIU. “Today’s highly competitive job market demands a new breed of professional who is career-ready and self-motivated as soon as they earn their degree,” she says. “At LIU, we give students the entrepreneurial edge they need to distinguish themselves among employers.”

For Gallo, who cites Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer as an inspiration, such experiential education is vital, as is developing a communications and marketing campaign with her student colleagues that is designed to promote The Student Body to customers.

“Social media is our strongest ally,” she says. “We all intuitively know how to reach out to people via social media and the best methods of doing so.”

This includes a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other online tools that keep customers informed of discounts, sales, and other store-related promotions.

The store’s diverse inventory is matched by the diversity of its student workers. Brooklyn native and clarinetist Christina Charles is confident that her experience working at The Student Body will help give her the entrepreneurial experience to succeed as a professional freelance musician. The first-year student currently performs with LIU Post’s Wind Ensemble and Wind Symphony, which tours the world presenting the finest repertoire from all musical periods to its audiences.

Likewise, cashier Lucie Chrasteeka of the Czech Republic is a pre-med biology major who plans to graduate in 2016. Her career goal is entrepreneurial in its own right as the LIU student plans to open her own plastic surgery firm in the United States. And she is ecstatic that store profits are reinvested into the LIU community.

“The idea that profits go back into scholarships,” Chrasteeka says, “I love being part of that.” Gallo agrees. “That is the best part of The Student Body,” she says. “Whether it’s financial support or opening a new business on campus, every LIU student benefits from every purchase.”