Local college students becoming local entrepreneurs

Patrick Jenkins is an Albany Technical College student and GOAL winner as well as the owner of the natural bazaar Global Essence

Business owners by day. Students by night.

Three new businesses in Downtown Albany were established by local college students: Organic Charms, Bella Donna Handbags and Global Essence.

"We have products from all over the world India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines. So it's a very unique store, one of a kind items," says Patrick Jenkins, owner of Global Essence and Albany Technical College Environmental Horticulture student. Jenkins is also Albany Tech's GOAL winner and will represent the college at a competition in Atlanta.

Jenkins says lessons he learns in the classroom can, in fact, be applied to the "real world."

"I'm actually going to be selling plants here and container baskets for house plants, so what I'm taking at Albany Technical College is actually helping me accentuate my business more," says Jenkins.

Designer and Founder of Bella Donna Sonique O'Neal says the idea for her handbag collection began after an unsuccessful hunt for a special purse and ended up designing her own. She says she bought a plain black handbag from a retail store and buttons from a craft store and got to work.

"When I went to the airport the next day everybody was asking, 'Where'd you get that bag, did you buy it did you make it?'" says O'Neal, also a senior Marketing major at Albany State University.

Balancing school and homework is tough enough as it is, but how do these students do all of that while creating a business?

"To balance everything out that's going on in my life seems kind of overwhelming sometimes, but when I meet people and tell them what I have going on it just opens more doors," says O'Neal.

Not only are some of them balancing school and business, but also family. It's that family, though, Jenkins says, that has helped him stay the course.

"I have five children and a grandbaby, so they've been a very integral part of opening the store and just giving me the opportunity to get myself in the groove that I need to be in," he says.

Not only family members but other local business owners have helped pave their path as well.

"Jessica the owner of verge reached out to me. She called me up one day and was like, 'Hey I hear you have a handbag collection. Let's do business together,'" says O'Neal.

Their advice to other students fresh out of college and eager to start their own business:

"I would tell them to go for it I would tell them to do their market surveys to narrow down their demographic, their target audience," says Jenkins. He also says the Small Business Association has some incubators to help potential entrepreneurs get their business off the ground.

"You have to take risks, and if I hadn't taken that risk I wouldn't be here today," says O'Neal.

The owners of Organic Charms, Dee and Melvin Harris, are Albany State University students. Organic Charms along with Bella Donna are both located inside Verge at 110 N. Washington Street. You can also visit Global Essence at their location on 111 S. Jackson Street or call them at (229) 883-1868.

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