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UMGC Alumni AssociationStarting a Business? Get the Inside Scoop from UMGC Entrepreneurs

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? Experience may be the best teacher, but learning from someone else’s hard work is a close second.

In honor of National Entrepreneurship Month in November, UMGC connected with the following alumni entrepreneurs to learn more about what drives them to venture out on their own, what advice helped them the most, how their degrees prepared them for the challenges of entrepreneurship and what words of wisdom they have for fellow alumni who are considering taking the plunge, themselves.

Meet the entrepreneurs who are making their mark on the world with their dreams, determination and perseverance.

Sherrell Whitfield, BS Business Management 2018
Founder and creator of A Beautiful Anointing
Sherrell Jones Whitfield, the founder and creator of A Beautiful Anointing, is an award-winning, magazine-published, master cosmetologist who developed her childhood love to create beauty into a thriving beauty business.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur? 
As an entrepreneur, I love to see my own ideas and thoughts manifested into a full-fledged business and for them to become the realities that fuel the mission, and vision, for the business. To realize my dreams come true, from start to finish, brings me true fulfillment and joy.

What is the best advice you received? 
The best advice I received is to always schedule time to rest, relax and restore. A time of refreshing is needed to promote wholeness, and a healthy well-being is conducive for creative and critical thinking. Some of the best ideas are developed during and after a time of rest.  

How did your degree prepare you for launching or building your business?
I earned a bachelor's degree in management studies with a minor in small business entrepreneurship. Earning my degree enabled me to make better decisions for the growth and development of my business. Learning from top experts in my field has shaped me into a more well-rounded and knowledgeable entrepreneur. I now have the capability to operate in almost every aspect of my business with surety, confidence and skill.  

What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur? 
The best advice I would give to a new entrepreneur is to take time to develop plans for your business. Don't try to wing it and hope for the best. Many people will spend approximately one to two years of planning for a wedding that will only last 20 minutes and a reception that will last two hours but will spend an insufficient amount of time developing plans for a business they dream to successfully operate for a lifetime.  Proper planning encourages a strong foundation and promotes growth and sustainability.

Valencia Annik Payne, Graduate Certificate Cybersecurity 2016, MS Health Informatics Admin 2017
Founder of rn4students Education With A Twist (SHIELD) A.Nano.I
Valencia Annik Payne founded rn4students Education With A Twist (SHIELD) A.Nano.I in 2014 to provide a nano-technological approach to cure Type II Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Renal Disease.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
The opportunity to do what I desire and love is what gave me the courage to be an entrepreneur. The personal benefits of entrepreneurship for me are the ability to create your own opportunities, develop and sell products and services, solve problems, and make a difference in the world.

What is the best advice you received?
The best advice I received was to never give up, keep striving and accept failure as that is a part of becoming successful. 

How did your degree prepare you for launching or building your business? 
Earning my Master of Science in Health Informatics Administration allowed me to hone my skills as a health informaticist, which allowed be to build and design electronic health records systems for the Department of Defense, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Medstar Georgetown. My degree also allowed me to create my NanoBot that will be used to cure Type II Diabetes. Lastly, with my degree, I have accomplished the following: 

  • Apple and Google App Developer (rn4students App)
  • In 2021, appointed to HIMSS Global Health Conference Education Committee
  • In 2021, current Nursing Field Site Affiliation Agreement with Walden University
  • rn4students Nanotechnology (DiaGen-NanoBot) is featured in Israel The Marker’s Annual High-Tech Book 2018 and Life in the Delta Magazine

What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur? 
First, have a great business plan. Second, prepare for financial hardships. Third, market your business on a budget.

Dr. Selena Ramkeesoon, Doctor of Management, 2019
CEO and founder of DualStar LLC
Dr. Ramkeesoon founded DualStar, a consultancy working with organizations on strategic communications and diversity, equity and inclusion. Dr. Ramkeesoon is also an adjunct assistant professor with the UMGC MBA Program.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I enjoy the freedom to make decisions about the focus of DualStar—who I work with, its ethical parameters and business practices.

What is the best advice you received?
Entrepreneurship allows me to be an infinite learner, so don’t rest on my laurels. For a competitive advantage, constantly innovate and expand on my ideas.

How did your degree prepare you for launching or building your business?
I earned my Doctor of Management degree from UMGC in 2019. The DM program covered topics like evidence-based management, organizational leadership, change management and innovation. These topics, coupled with a focus on applied research and analysis of real-world management problems, elevated my knowledge and credentials. I refined my strategic thinking and executive-level management skills, which are helping me solve complex business challenges.

What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Building a business takes time and effort, and there’s no blueprint to guide you. Be ready to adapt to new information. Entrepreneurship is a journey that involves iterations and pivots.

UMGC Alumni Student Business Directory 
Are you an UMGC student and alumni entrepreneur and want to promote your business? Small businesses are the heart of local communities and are instrumental to supporting the global economy. The UMGC Alumni Association created the Alumni Student Business Directory to connect UMGC student and alumni business owners to members of the global UMGC community.

Not a business owner or entrepreneur? We encourage you to support the UMGC alumni or student-owned businesses in your community by tapping into their services and offerings. Click here to get started by browsing all listings or searching for a specific service. 

Read more UMGC Alumni News.