#UAkronBusiness Spotlight: Elia Meltzer reflects on UA student experience prior to launching business
During spring break of her junior year of high school, Elia Meltzer recalled her father taking her on a “road trip around Ohio”, where they visited various colleges and universities throughout. Graduating in the top 10% of her high school class, Meltzer, sometimes known as Butterfly, knew she could go just about anywhere. However, she made the decision to visit her ideal options in-person to solidify her decision.
While there were some options that were quickly removed from the list, a handful of colleges rose to the rankings. While visiting, she came to the conclusion that “fancy” degrees wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t get a job afterwards. She asked herself, “I can have a great degree in X or Y and although no one else may offer those degrees, what am I going to do with it at the end of the day when I graduate?”
Three distinctive reasons stood out in her mind for why she decided on The University of Akron (UA): the ability to be part of the Emerging Leaders Living-Learning Community, the desire to participate in the Zips for Haiti student organization (and have the opportunity to visit the country with like-minded philanthropists), and a conversation with then-Director for the Institute for Leadership Advancement, Kevin Smith.
The Emerging Leaders Living-Learning Community allowed Meltzer to join a group of like-minded people that focused on leadership development, civic engagement and self-discovery, all of which she knew she would need to advance her career later on. Learning about a socially-conscious initiative like Zips for Haiti impressed her. Additionally, the conversation she had with Kevin Smith while touring The University of Akron helped solidify her desire to become a Zip. Having shared with Smith about her passion for helping the community and indigenous reservations through donation drives amongst other initiatives, Smith saw her budding entrepreneurial spirit and challenged her to do something with a lasting impact – and that UA’s College of Business Institute for Leadership Advancement (ILA) could help her do that.
“The University of Akron was career-oriented and had a lot of good scholarships” said Meltzer. The scholarship incentive increased for Meltzer when Akron lifted their cap of $11,000 in 2021. “The housing was also intermixed with buildings where classes were held, so you could have a life on campus and not feel so isolated living on the outside.”
Meltzer, who recently walked across the stage with a marketing degree and sales minor from The University of Akron College of Business, has no regrets about her decision.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’d still choose The University of Akron,” said Meltzer.
CAMPUS INVOLVEMENT AND THE LEADERSHIP DESIGNATION PROGRAM
It didn’t take Meltzer long to start getting involved in student organizations on campus. Throughout her college experience, she joined Women in Business, the African Student Association, Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) and Zips for Haiti – on top of trying out ballroom dancing. However, participating in ILA’s Leadership Designation Program always stayed top of mind.
ILA’s Leadership Designation Program provides many high-impact, experiential learning activities to prepare students to lead effectively at any level of an organization. Students are placed into cohorts and move through workshops and speakers together at each level intended to help them gain insights into how their knowledge is applied in real-world settings, all while making connections with professionals. Students may complete one, two, or all three levels of the program, earning a certificate for each level during the annual Leadership Recognition Reception.
Level 1 (now called Rising Leaders) focused on personal mastery and ethics while Level 2 (now called Established Leaders) emphasized team and interpersonal development. Completing those during her freshman and sophomore years, Meltzer most enjoyed the ethics module where she said she learned to be a better advocate for human rights and decency. When asked about team development, she commented, “If you’re actively aware of the team and their potential, then you can do a better job leading them.”
LAUNCHING HER BUSINESS
A little over halfway into her college career, Meltzer began bullet-journaling in December of 2020 and it quickly turned into a passionate business idea around February of 2021. Stemming from her diagnosis of severe depression, panic disorder, and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), Meltzer had battled with effectively expressing to doctors her feelings for most of her life. By doing what she calls bullet-journaling, she could keep track of everything from her hormonal cycle to changes in weather, her appetite, mood, and exercise in order to communicate potential triggers that would create depressive mood swings. Meltzer knew this could help others in a similar situation.
She soon found out about the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium (EEC) Side Hustle, a virtual program that offers webinars, coaching and access to micro-grants to help Northeast Ohio college students start or grow a side hustle. It was no question whether she would participate and by doing so, received one of the $200 micro-grants before earning an additional $500 in EEC’s pitch competition for best social media.
With the funds, she started Chartam LLC. Chartam, meaning paper in the Latin language, would be the start to her further developing, marketing, and producing the planner.
Although she remembers getting an email from ILA’s Coordinator, Jeff Klemm, about Level 3 (now Experienced Leaders), also known as the Leadership Experience Project, Meltzer didn’t think her planner qualified because it didn’t have that “experiential” component like previous projects did. The only references she had of previous projects all involved some sort of travel aspect. That changed when she stopped in the CoB Professional Development Suite and met Klemm in January 2022 of her senior year.
Enrolling into the program, Meltzer received funds to help in the development of her planner – where she invited the skills and talents of graphic design students, Jacob Scott and Elysia Fornaro, from the UA Myers School of Art. Between the typography, linework, and illustrations, she wanted her planner to have it all. She did her research and got quotes from three different printing companies in the area in addition to circulating the planner around for beta-testing amongst a group of individuals.
In addition to EEC and ILA program funding, she set her sights on entering the UA $10K Pitch Competition, presented by The EX[L] Center, University of Akron Research Foundation, Fitzgerald Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, and SEED Legal Clinic. Meltzer won $2,500 after placing third and with the funding, was able to purchase marketing software tools and photography in the meantime while putting an amount aside to print her first batch of planners.
Meltzer’s last and most recent business pitch competition was Stark Tank, a program designed to inspire and develop an entrepreneurial mindset in local college students. The program’s culminating event is a business pitch competition modeled after the television show Shark Tank. Individual or student teams pitch their killer business ideas to a panel of Stark County Sharks (successful local entrepreneurs who serve as judges) and receive expert feedback as well as potentially receive up to $10,000 investment from the Sharks to pursue their ideas. Out of 300 university-level entries, Meltzer made it to the top 10 where she placed third overall and won an additional $2,500 last month. For those doing the math, she has raised an impressive $7,700 so far to launch her business as of June 2022.
GRADUATING CAREER-READY AND CONNECTED
At graduation, Meltzer not only sported the typical cap and gown, but she proudly wore her BGS and Honors College cords as well as medals for achieving the College of Business’ EDGE (Exploring Degree Goals and Experiences program) Honors and Summa Cum Laude.
With a degree in hand and a certified LLC business, her product is in the final stages of completion and she hopes to have her first batch of planners ready for purchase ahead of the 2022-23 academic year. Planners will also be offered for a full calendar year, from January-December.
“Go all in,” said Meltzer when asked about advice she would give to future UA students. “Stepping foot on The University of Akron campus is the start to the rest of your life. Don’t pigeonhole yourself, but rather be involved and try a lot of different things.”
You can find more information about Chartam LLC and Meltzer’s planners by visiting chartam.org.