Two Lone Star College-CyFair students and business owners start their spring semester and new year as the college’s first Student Entrepreneurship Award recipients.
Balancing school, work and family is difficult enough for many college students. Then add the pressure of running a business to the mix. But for award winner Toni Scott Grant and award runner-up Heather Diaz, their business is their passion and their education goals only enhance their future success.
Grant is owner of Scott Phree Boutique, a fun, youth-driven business that carries clothing and accessories geared for ages 18 to 45.
“There’s so many serious things going on in people’s lives, I just wanted to incorporate fun and want people to feel happy even when purchasing online,” she said.
Grant started her own business online in 2005 and now has a storefront boutique in Montrose. She plans to open additional locations including one in Brooklyn, but in the meantime she provides a mobile boutique in partnership with some area apartment complexes.
“I’ve always had a passion for fashion,” said Grant, a Fashion Institute of Technology alumni. “This award means everything to me and it’s very humbling. It matters that someone recognizes you, your talent and what you’re doing as a student, because I am still a student even though I am an entrepreneur.”
Grant said she stumbled into a fashion career right out of high school as a stylist for a friend’s girl’s group called Tha Truth. Her career goal was to be a lawyer, but fashion was always there and would lead Grant to New York. In the “Big Apple” she was a fashion stylist and worked in top-notch fashion show houses as a publicity and showroom manager.
Grant returned to Houston when her mother became ill and lost her battle with breast cancer. Now with the support of her husband, 12-year-old son and Jackie, her Jack Russell terrier, she is running a successful business and back in school in pursuit of a bachelor’s in communication.
“Going to school as an adult has to be for something you enjoy,” she said. “The same with your career, it should never be about the money.”
Grant’s goals for the coming year are to complete her associate degree at LSC-CyFair by summer as well as to reassess price points and revamp marketing for her business. In addition, she will also design and launch a luxury line of t-shirts slated for spring/summer release.
Marketing efforts for her photography business and eventually running her studio full-time as well as to continue her pursuit of a bachelor’s in accounting are the goals for Diaz, who is owner and photographer of Sunshine Studios.
“I was so excited,” said Diaz when the Student Entrepreneurship Award winners were announced at a recent Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce meeting. “I was super surprised I won second and it was such a good learning opportunity to meet others running their own business in a struggling economy.”
While she’s been an active photographer for more than 14 years, Diaz didn’t start her own business until 2005.
“I opened Sunshine Studios as a part-time operation to help make extra money to pay for my wedding and I have been going strong ever since,” said Diaz. “I help clients capture their perfect moments, whether it be helping a bride capture the moments of her wedding or capturing the excitement of a college senior at graduation.”
In addition to her thank you, invitation, holiday, save-the-date card options, her low-cost service and mixed-posed proofs, Diaz also offers her wedding clients her full attention by refusing to double book. She’s recently added church directory and product photos to her repertoire. Beyond taking the photos, Diaz enjoys the behind-the-scenes work and making the photos her own.
A former LSC-CyFair Student Services employee, Diaz earned an AAS in liberal arts. Earning a bachelor’s in accounting is good for anything she plans to do, she said. It helps at her day job, it will help in her business and with her bachelor’s she could also teach at some point.
As a wife and mother of a toddler, an accounting assistant during the day, a student at night with homework and finals, a photographer on weekends and primarily on location as her business in currently home-based, Diaz said balancing it all is hard, but photography is admittedly what helps keep her sane.
“It’s capturing moments that people will treasure I love,” she said.
The LSC-CyFair Business Department sponsored the Student Entrepreneurship Award competition.