Eli Garcia ’14 Explores Small Businesses in Italy

Mihaylo College lives out its mission to produce globally aware business leaders and provide international immersed experiences to students. The Center for International Business assists in creating and supporting international study initiatives for business students through the Business Europe Study Tours (BEST) Program, the Heidelberg Program, and the Business Honors Study Abroad Program. This post is the fifth installment in a series of six articles written by Mihaylo accounting student, Elizabeth Garcia ’14, narrating her unique study abroad experiences in Florence, Italy. Elizabeth is currently enrolled in a semester long program at the Lorenzo de’Medici International Institute in Italy, through CSUF’s Global Student Experience.

Many fashion brands founded in Florence are world renowned, sought after and exclusively available in this area. In fact, “Made in Italy” alone suggests quality, craftsmanship and elegance in all that bears the label. Despite the prestigious distinction, even this phenomenon cannot withstand volatile economic conditions and the forever-evolving business practices without some reinforcement. Just as the Renaissance shed some well-needed light on the outdated medieval paintings and lifestyle, this new transparency era has opened the blinds on outdated business processes, marketing techniques and manufacturing policies. There has been a shift from a blindly hooked consumer to an aware and outspoken one, a satisfied and qualified employee to an individually ambitious one, minuscule costs to outsourcing costs, big profits to bigger socially responsible ones, and strategic management to creative leadership.

money wall in florence study abroad

“Money Wall” in Florence

During my stay in Italy, I had the pleasure of meeting and picking the brilliant brains of two very unique, passionate, and courageous entrepreneurs (small business owners), Sara Amrhein and Elisabetta Renzoni. Both women have distinct backgrounds, business models and byproducts of their innate talents. I was so impressed with their designs, drawn to their tenacity and moved by their passion; I knew I had to share each of their unique stories.

Sara Amrhein Logo

Flo Concept Store

 

 

 

 

SARA AMRHEIN
Sara’s studio is a comfortable artistic playhouse where the only thing brighter than the aura around her as she talks about her art is the playfully colored jewelry she creates with polymer clay showcased throughout her space. I met Sara the day I visited her studio regarding an internship opportunity she posted online. The second I walked in, I was in awe at how the simplicity of the white walls are accented by the beautiful artwork and jewelry she creates. A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to sit down with her over some espresso in her studio where I picked her brain and was moved by her story.

jewelry entrepreneur

Sara next to her contemporary jewelry collection.

Sara completed her formal education at University of California, Santa Barbara where she majored in art history and spent a quarter abroad in Florence. Having grown up in a household where creativity, art and fashion exploration were encouraged by her mother, Sara acknowledged that being surrounded by the Renaissance masterpieces in Florence felt like home. The young artist knew she had to pack her bags and say arrivaderci to Los Angeles only one month after her graduation. Fast-forward 14 years, Sara is sitting in her lovely studio, creating beautiful jewelry and artwork and networking with other great artists and designers scattered throughout this creative region of Tuscany. 

Sara’s first entrepreneurial endeavor was in high school selling bracelets and necklaces to classmates. Now, she sells directly out of her studio, partners with Etsy.com and works with two local concept stores to sell her wonderfully crafted and unique products. Sara’s biggest challenges during the first year of opening her studio were marketing and increasing brand awareness. “Selling your product just doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t just open your door and automatically people are rushing in and buying everything off your shelves,” she says. I wonder “how couldn’t they?” Her necklaces are aesthetically daring, colorfully welcoming and make their presence felt in an effortlessly flawless way. Who would be bold enough to wear these statement pieces? “Somebody who is after something different, always going to make a statement,” she says. “Somebody cultured and willing to seek out the handmade.”

jewelry made by Sara

Sara brings a flavorful product to the market, satisfying niche consumer needs by simply exercising her innate ability to create. Check out her website and enjoy the sight of her inimitable accessories yourself! http://www.sara-amrhein.com/.

 

 

FLO Concept Store

My Fashion Entrepreneurship class of eight was surrounded by the blue-green fluid walls and custom clothing of Flo, a concept store boutique founded by Elisabetta R­­­enzoni.  Elisabetta, president of Flo, gracefully shared her entrepreneurial journey before store opening hours one Thursday morning, keeping all us students engaged and enthused with ears and eyes wide open. Her chic and welcoming demeanor coupled with her warm tone complimented the Flo philosophy of “quality and ethics traveling on the same track without sacrificing elegance.”

Elisabetta Renzoni, President of Flo Concept Store

Elisabetta shared a little bit about the business model and vision of the Flo Concept Store. Flo is founded on unique products and social responsibility based on concepts such as solidarity, sustainability and awareness. This organization grants disadvantaged and distressed individuals the opportunity to work or design products which are then sold in store. Elisabetta acknowledged that this socially aware model was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, the “Banker to the Poor,” a Bangladesh social entrepreneur who has established the Grameen Bank providing business loans to aspiring entrepreneurs with little to no collateral while teaching these clients basic financial principals to get their business up and running.

recycled furniture pieces

Elisabetta is a professional, inspiring and brilliant business woman who sees the talent in people and strives to bring out the best in them, while making a profit and sharing a beautifully crafted product with the excited end consumer. For more information on the Flo Concept Store and to check out the one-of-a-kind assortment of products, visit http://www.flo-firenze.org/.

Without a doubt, Sara and Elisabetta have given Made in Italy a completely new meaning. The poise, dedication and pure joy these two women radiate is both admirable and hopeful. By dedicating this post to the 2014 graduates, I want to leave you all with one message: Whether you want to open your own business, work for your dream company, save the world one city at a time, or still have no idea, I hope these two stories fueled your passion, motivated you to execute and be the driving force behind your OWN defined success.

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