Alumna Rachel Sipperley Launching ‘Rent My Wardrobe’ App

By Delaney MacKenzie

Alumni Spotlight Header 3I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Grand Valley alumna Rachel Sipperley by phone to learn about her time at GVSU and her journey since graduation. Because she dual enrolled in college courses while in high school, Sipperley came to GVSU with junior standing. She graduated early and debt-free in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations. After graduation, she set her sights on Dallas, with its market fit for up-and-coming professionals. She made the move to Texas without the comfort of knowing anyone there.

Since moving to Texas, Sipperley has made one return trip to the GVSU campus. She revisited her college days while giving her high school senior cousin a tour of GVSU last summer.

“The campus looked completely different than when I went there,” she said.

She was also impressed to hear that last year was the first year Grand Valley had the same number of undergraduates as the University of Michigan.

When reflecting on her years as a student in the Advertising and Public Relations program, Rachel shared one of her favorite memories: her final senior project in Professor Peggy Howard’s class, where she conducted a full PR analysis for Hudsonville Ice Cream. At the end of the project, she toured their factory, sampled some ice cream, and visited the corporate offices.

Sipperley’s first couple of jobs in Texas ranged from working at a local church to being a top sales executive for a few different companies. Although she was very successful in these roles, her position as sales executive was eliminated from each of those companies. Disappointed at her loss of job security, she decided to create her own business using her knowledge and experience.

Dallas is a lively city full of exciting functions each month, and with that comes the need to get new formal attire to wear. So Sipperley came up with the idea for an app, Rent My Wardrobe, which serves as a type of online community closet.

“A lot of companies that have blown up in the last few years are centered around this idea of facilitating a peer-to-peer exchange, but not actually selling a product or service, like Uber and Airbnb,” she explains. “It’s about creating a platform for consumers to interact with each other.”

Sipperly
Alumna Rachel Sipperley started a wardrobe sharing app in Dallas.

So that is exactly what her app does. Rent My Wardrobe’s goal is to target cities with a high concentration of professionals in their mid-twenties who regularly attend galas and charity events. These are women who are seeking to “rent” others’ dresses in order to save money and not have to buy a brand-new dress of their own.

Sipperley’s journey in starting her own business began with teaming up with developers to assist with the overall design and aesthetic of the app. She also hired people to handle the coding and to ensure the uploading process of the app runs smoothly.

“Even though my degree is in Advertising and Public Relations, I never had any classes or formal education on developing an app because this wasn’t around back then, Sipperley said. “Marketing and advertising has changed drastically the past eight years, especially through social media.”

The experience of launching her own business has shown her a new side of advertising through social media. She has been connecting with online influencers from all over the nation to spread the word about her app and gain followers.

The app is launching this spring.

You can read more about Rent My Wardrobe on its website, or find the app on social media:

Facebook: Rent My Wardrobe

Instagram: @rentmywardrobeapp

Twitter: @rmwapp

Pinterest: Rent My Wardrobe

NSAC Team Wins District 6 Competition

Grand Valley State University’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) team took first place in the American Advertising Federation (AAF) District 6 competition on April 21st. AAF District 6 is a “mega-district” due to the large number of collegiate teams competing from Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois who are all vying for a chance to move forward to the finals at the AAF National Convention—known as ADmerica—taking place in New Orleans in June.

NSAC team
(Pictured from left to right) Front row: Addison Wittry, Elizabeth Konen, Rachael Vruggink, James Sturtridge, Alex Rabideau, faculty advisor Robin Spring. Second row: Joey Parks, Bethany Garcia, Hawra Al-Howaishy, Marai Behovitz, and Kat Wille. Third row: Jaclyn Waligora, Kate Lewis, Madeline Schaefer, Theresa Wierenga, and Alex Knaisel. Fourth row: Dan Goobers, Ari Zucker, Abbie Fielding, and Ashley Barrett.

 

 

 

The team, comprised of 19 students, crafted an advertising campaign to meet specific objectives for national client Tai Pei frozen foods. Assistant Professor Robin Spring, of the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations Program, was the team’s advisor.  Students worked on the project for two semesters by conducting research, refining strategy, producing tactics, and perfecting their campaign plans book and 20-minute presentation.

The District 6 competition was broken into two tracks, with Grand Valley’s team placing first in the Blue Track, ahead of other schools, including: Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, Purdue-West Lafayette, Ball State, University of Illinois and others. Grand Valley edged out Western Michigan University and Ball State University in the final round.

“The amount of talent on the team is incredible,” said Addison Wittry, one of the Account Executives of the project. “When that is paired with the hard work and dedication we had, it was no surprise that we were successful.”

“Our team’s diverse skillsets were the real game changer,” said Rachael Vruggink, the team’s second Account Executive. “We weren’t all just creatives or strategists, but a well-rounded group from different majors and backgrounds. This took our critical thinking, strategy, and creative from good to great.”

The team will compete in a semi-final round on May 4th. Of approximately 150 competing across the US, just eight move on to the national finals in June. This is the third time Grand Valley has placed first in the district in the 10 years they’ve competed in the contest.   The National Student Advertising Competition was started in 1973 and is the oldest and largest student advertising competition.

Grand Valley State University NSAC 2017 team members include:

  • Rachael Vruggink       Account Executive, Presentation Team
  • Addison Wittry           Account Executive
  • James Sturtridge          Creative Director, Video/Photography
  • Elizabeth Konen          Research Director, Presentation Team
  • Mari Behovitz             Integrated Promotions Director
  • Abbie Fielding             Media Planning Director
  • Alex Rabideau             Account Planning, Integrated Promotions, Presentation Team
  • Ari Zucker                   Account Planning, Media, Presentation Team
  • Dan Goubert               Creative Team, Copywriting
  • Joey Parks                   Creative Team, Graphics
  • Madeline Schaefer       Creative Team, Graphics
  • Alex Knaisel               Research Team, Treasurer
  • Bethany Garcia            Research Team
  • Kat Wille                     Research Team
  • Jaclyn Waligora           Media Planning
  • Kate Lewis                  Media Planning
  • Theresa Wierenga        Integrated Promotions
  • Ashley Barrett             Integrated Promotions
  • Hawra Al-Howaishy   Fundraising

Pop-Up Pedagogy: Myths, Mystiques, and Mandatories for Young Women Working in Communication

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The GVSU Advertising and Public Relations program celebrated that March is Women’s History Month by hosting an event specifically for young women beginning their career in communications. On March 15, Pop Up Pedagogy addressed the “myths, mystiques, and mandatories” that come with being a woman in communications and the professional world.

CJ DeVries, Owner and Operator of GRNow and Owner of Innovative Social Exchange, and Julie Lankes, Creative Director and CEO at BOXBOOM Creative, collaborated as hosts for the evening out of a desire to help young women just starting their professional lives. The hosts expressed they were once in that position, too, and wished they had received this kind of guidance as a student.

The event addressed some of the challenges women face in the professional realm that men don’t, as well as tips for making a good impression and working effectively.

As with other Pop Up Pedagogy events, this was an interactive workshop. Seven female communications professionals (listed below) were seated among the students in attendance. DeVries and Lankes shared insights and advice from their own experience before presenting a break-out topic for conversation at the individual tables.

Some topics of discussion included:

  • What makes you memorable?
  • Practice your handshake!
  • Learn to accept a compliment
  • Advice for interview attire

“The goal I had with this event was to bring in a bunch of successful and wonderful women from many different backgrounds and jobs to meet students and share what they’ve experienced, as well as be mentors for students,” said student Kelly Darcy, who assisted Professor Frank Blossom as the project manager for the event.

What made the event so powerful was the spirit of mentorship and camaraderie built by the roundtable discussions throughout the night. It exemplified the aphorism “Empowered women empower women.”

Students who weren’t able to attend can still benefit from wisdom that was shared. A film crew was on hand to capture footage from the evening for a video, and a booklet is being created with the information discussed. Lankes suggested setting up a Facebook group where female professionals and students could continue dialogue based on the themes covered at the event. Students who would like to be part of this group can email kierstynnlyon@gmail.com with their interest.

Check out #APRSpeaker on Twitter for more insights and quotations from this and other APR events. A Facebook Live stream of the Pop Up Pedagogy event is available on the GVSU Advertising and Public Relations Facebook page. (Link to video: Facebook LiveStream video

Thank you to these professionals who contributed to the evening’s discussions and shared their time and experience with GVSU students.

Agency Spotlight: Spectacle Creative Media

Burned out from corporate culture, Tamaryn Tobian started Spectacle Creative Media in 2011. At that time, she knew that she wanted to use her creative talents and knowledge of public relations, advertising, and marketing to serve an emerging independent film industry in Michigan. Tobian graduated college as Facebook was going to market and before Twitter hatched. After making the decision to leave her big-box corporate advertising and marketing job, she started picking up more freelance and PR clients.

 

Tobian wanted to work with content creators, and she knew that if she was going to work in PR, then she was going to do it on her terms. It was important to her to create a healthy work/life balance that allows her to take on projects and clients that she was truly passionate about while also creating an in which she and others can grow and thrive.

 

Today, Spectacle Creative Media has become a known PR and brand strategy firm in Grand Rapids. They help filmmakers, distributors, entertainment & tech companies, authors, publishers, small businesses, and nonprofits discover their spark. The team at Spectacle is made up of storytellers, dreamers, strategy makers, and action takers. They include:

 

Tamaryn Tobian—Owner, Publicist & Brand Strategist

Kellen Parker—Graphic Designer & Web Developer

Jade Villanueva—Associate Publicist

Emily Oldenkamp—Associate Publicist

 

Spectacle Creative Media offers a variety of services including unit publicity for films, film distribution publicity, media training workshops, traditional public relations and advertising solutions. Spectacle has worked with a range of clients including, the upcoming faith-based film, God Bless the Broken Road, Joel Potrykus’ 2014 SXSW world premiere film, BUZZARD, Chicago nonprofit WomenOnCall, CineScout, SetHero, Stage32, Joseph Scott Anthony, Ralph Lister, Sheri Beth Dusek, and more. Tobian is also helping to organize the Grand Rapids Film Society, whose mission it is to create a thriving film culture around independent, documentary and world cinema in Grand Rapids.

 

We asked Tobian what advice she has for students starting out in the PR field, “I think it’s important for students to be versed in many of content creation. The days of just issuing a press release are over,” she says. “A fresh face in PR should know how to write—extremely well and creatively—add copy writing and creative writing to your class load. And if you have room, photography, video editing or design class (or two). PR is ever-changing, and as visual content continues to grow in importance, it’s important to be well rounded and know how to style online content and have an eye for design. Being multi-skilled, especially in a small firm, is required. But most importantly, be willing to keep learning. As media and business models at outlets continue to shift, even seasoned pros are having to hone up on new skill sets.

 

We also asked Tobian what she looks for in potential employees and interns. “I look for people who aren’t afraid of jumping in—those who embrace hard work and who are excited with no two days being the same. One week our team may be on a film set, another we may be with a client at a film festival and still another we may be updating boring spreadsheets—you have to be excited about all of it,” says Tobian.

 

Understanding Global Public Relations

Cultures and customs differ around the world. It’s best to know of and be prepared for what may be different while traveling and working with people from different places. Understanding global public relations can be extremely useful and is necessary in the field.

 

On Monday, February 13 in Loosemore Auditorium, the winter 2017 semester APR Speaker Series presented global public relations consultant, professor, and author of her book: “Pitch, Tweet or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication”, Kara Alaimo.

 

Alaimo’s presentation consisted of her talking the audience through factors about cultural clusters around the world and how to adapt public relations messages, strategies, and tactics to these differences. The cultural groups included Confucian Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Anglo Europe, Latin Europe, Germanic Europe, Nordic Europe, and Eastern Europe.

 

As she spoke about each group, Alaimo outlined aspects from them that are specific to the culture. She stressed that doing something that you normally would from your culture may be perceived differently in another.

 

Bri Olson, an APR student at GVSU, relates her take away from Alaimo’s presentation about global PR to PRSA’s code of ethics:

 

“I was most shocked to learn how the Confucianism approach affected Asian culture. From Alaimo’s experience, she realized the Confucianism approach taught citizens and business leaders that talking about a problem makes it worse; so, if you have a problem, don’t tell anyone. This is highly unethical to do in public relations. Our Public Relations Society of America’s code of ethics clearly states the importance of transparency to be an ethical practitioner so this was such a foreign concept for me.”

 

Olson’s example from Alaimo’s presentation shows that knowing how to adjust to a culture can be very important. Alaimo explained that since the 1990s, International PR professors have been teaching their students the generic/specific theory of international PR – if you are going to practice PR in a new culture you need to think about five things and adapt your strategy:

 

  • Political-economic systems
  • Culture
  • Extent of activism locally
  • Level of economic development
  • Media system (who owns it, media access, and media penetration)

 

The big picture that students and professionals can take away from this APR Speaker series is that, from the words of Kara Alaimo, “all of us should be prepared to practice public relations globally.”

 

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How to Prepare Yourself for the Professional World

my-headshotAs graduation approaches, it’s normal for seniors to feel nervous about entering the real world and their success in the future. Juniors, too will be searching for summer internships and building their resumes. I have gathered some great insight from a Grand Valley State alum, Morgan Yingst to calm the winter semester jitters. Although Morgan’s career is in Public Relations, her advice and experiences are applicable to any field.

Morgan holds the Senior Communications Specialist position at the Illinois Supreme Court, where she writes news releases daily in regards to updates on the Court or judicial appointments and vacancies.

Morgan feels that GrandPR has prepared her for her current role. Morgan joined GrandPR when she was a sophomore. She started as an Account Associate, and with a lot of hard work and ambition, she became the CEO. Morgan gained experience writing and sending news releases for GrandPR clients, including the City Lights Music Festival and ArtPrize. Her experience working with different clients with a variety of needs gave her the confidence to send out statewide news releases in her current position.  Whether it be in GrandPR or any other organization that you are involved in, step up and take on a new task. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will help develop confidence.

Confidence is essential in Morgan’s workplace, specifically, because she is the youngest on her team. Morgan utilizes her communication skills that she acquired in GrandPR, so she can present herself as knowledgeable and ensure her voice is heard.

Obtaining a position at the Illinois Supreme Court is not an easy task, but Morgan worked at the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), the largest voluntary organization for attorneys in Illinois, prior to getting her current job.

People say it’s about who you know when getting a job. This is partially true in Morgan’s case. Her supervisor at the ISBA left to become the Director of Communications for the Illinois Supreme Court. He informed Morgan of the opening, and she seized the opportunity.

It is not uncommon that people enter a career that differs from what they had planned or even studied. However, Morgan always knew she was passionate about writing. At a young age, she entered short stories into local contests and served as an editor for her high school newspaper and yearbook. Morgan had a prior knowledge of public relations going into Grand Valley and declared that as her major at orientation. Morgan indicates “after my first semester of classes, I knew it was the right fit.”

On the other hand, Morgan did not expect to be in a nonprofit or government industry. Throughout her college years, she was convinced she wanted to do corporate communications. Morgan wants to encourage college students to explore various industries, research different organizations, and expand their skill set while they are young. Morgan admits “I’m not an expert in the judicial system, and that’s okay!” Her secret to success is having the courage to ask questions in order to communicate as an expert.

#StandOutInPR with a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations

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By: Sarah Pontbriand

Why earn a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations?

Setting yourself apart from the rest of the career-driven people in your field is important when on the hunt for a job. There is a lot of competition out there, and in the Public Relations field, making sure that you stand out amongst your colleagues is a must. Earning a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations is a great opportunity to build up your resume as a student approaching graduation as well as graduate with an advantage as you venture into your profession.

What exactly is the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations?

The Certificate’s purpose is to help students gain a head start in their individual professional development and differ from their peers. The Certificate tests students’ understanding in the following fundamental concepts: communication models and theories, business literacy, ethics and law, and program research, planning, implementation, and evaluation.

How do you earn the Certificate?

The required preparation course before taking the Certificate Examination used to be only an in-person course, but the UAB and PRSA Educators Academy have recently launched an online study course option that provides an alternative and perhaps more convenient way for students and faculty. The process of earning the Certificate involves four steps:

  1. Complete the application for the Certificate.
  2. Confirm eligibility with a faculty advisor at your university. A student must be within 6 months of (before or after) graduating in order to be eligible for the Certificate.
  3. Complete the Certificate preparatory course or the Principles of Public Relations Online Study Course.
  4. Study for and take the computer-based examination for the Certificate.

GVSU APR students:

If you earn the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, let the GVSU APR Program know! It is a big deal to set yourself apart from the competition and it is an accomplishment that should and will be recognized as you enter your career field and #StandOutInPR.

For additional resources and more information about the Certificate, visit http://www.prcertificate.org