August 23, 2018
Danielle Jeffers is senior and a native of Danville, VA with a major in Multimedia Journalism and a Management minor in Entrepreneurship (ENVG). We recently asked her to share some insights into her decision to choose a Management minor.
Q: Why did you choose Virginia Tech? When and why did you choose a Management minor? A: At the age of five, I knew I wanted to go to college and play Division I basketball. My basketball dreams were no longer valid by my sophomore year of high school due to a devastating injury. I tore my right anterior cruciate ligament during my freshman year of high school and knew by my sophomore year that academics would have to write my ticket to college.
Ms. Heidi, a staff member from my Boys & Girls Club, encouraged me to visit her alma mater during my senior year of high school after years of college visits. Her daughter, Catherine, was a senior at Tech at the time. She drove me to Blacksburg from my hometown to experience Virginia Tech.
I stepped on the campus and fell in love. The hospitality was unmatched, the food was heavenly, and the people’s joy was transferable. Virginia Tech felt like home. That weekend I knew Virginia Tech was the college for me, and the only thing standing between me and my new home was my acceptance letter.
I began my college experience during the Fall 2015 semester with enough scholarships to begin the path to a debt-free degree. I met people from all over the world and learned about their college funding stories. Some of them were taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans every semester to study.
I started coaching some of those students and realized that I had a solution to a problem. Student loan debt is an epidemic many people are aware of, but choose to ignore.
I pitched my scholarship coaching idea at the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs’ “At the Nexus Conference” in November 2015. After finishing as a finalist and being strongly encouraged to turn my idea into a non-profit, I sought help from two people who knew me best, my sister and mentor.
I spent the winter break completing a winter externship with my mentor, Thomas Harrelson. Mr. Thomas is the President of TMH Global International, LLC, a financial services and education company headquartered in Woodbridge, VA. My sister, Andrea, has been instrumental in the development of our relationship and my scholarship success.
By the end of the externship, I founded Dough 4 Degrees, LLC, a scholarship coaching company that teaches students how to earn scholarships to go to college and graduate debt-free.
Shortly after I returned to school for the Spring 2016 semester, I enrolled in the entrepreneurship minor with the help of Chris Fang and Dr. Marc Junkunc. My decision to enroll was based on their encouragement, support, and a need to understand how business works. When I founded my company, I only knew the words “CEO” and “profit.” My vocabulary has expanded and so has my business acumen, but there is always room for improvement.
Q: Name some of the internships, if any, that you had during your Pamplin journey. A: As I mentioned, I spent my freshman year winter break completing an externship with my mentor, Thomas Harrelson. I spent the rest of 2016 interning with him as a networking intern.
The summer before my sophomore year, I returned to Danville to complete an internship with one of my mentors, Nic Sturdifen. I served as the Marketing & Leadership Intern for Life Push, LLC. Life Push is a dynamic organization that works to help cultivate the correct perspectives to fill the gaps currently prohibiting k-12 students, college students, and transitioning adults from achieving the highest levels of success for their lives.
During the winter break before my junior year, I returned to Danville to work with the Danville Regional Foundation as a Foundation Intern. My activities included planning and executing the open house event to recruit potential summer interns.
My experiences are not limited to those mentioned above. I’ve worked for Dough 4 Degrees every day since January 14, 2016. On January 14, 2019, I’ll officially be an employee of Dough 4 Degrees and work full-time while on co-op.
Q: Were there any specific classes that you remember as validating your MINOR choice? A: All of the courses I have taken for my minor have helped me grow and understand how business works. However, there are a few that have transformed me personally and professionally.
Dr. Marc Junkunc, a former Virginia Tech management professor, has been instrumental in my development as a business owner. During my sophomore year, he encouraged and insisted that I take his course, Managing Technology Commercialization. His course was a 4000-level course that seemed like Mount Everest at the time.
As a sophomore and inexperienced entrepreneur, I wasn’t confident in my ability to ace his class. My main concern was that I would fail and it would destroy my GPA. That’s not what happened. I finished his class with an A-, new friends, and more knowledge about business. It reminded me that the entrepreneurial journey is better with a team and an open mind.
In the same semester, Fall 2016, I took Marketing Management with Donna Wertalik. Her teaching style and enthusiasm for marketing is unparalleled. I’ve never met anyone as outgoing and captivating as her. Her class and ability to create an environment built on curiosity taught me how to design a customer’s experience. At Dough 4 Degrees, we work to make our customer’s experiences unforgettable. We want them to remember who we are, what we do, why it’s important, and how we can help them.
Cornerstones of Entrepreneurship with Dr. Lisa Fournier was a pivotal moment in my career as a student entrepreneur. I met her and realized that entrepreneurship is one of the craziest things anyone can engage in, but it’s worth every minute. Her high energy and interactive teaching style made me see the classroom differently. Our classroom extended beyond the doors of 3028 Pamplin and into the streets of the New River Valley. Sometimes it crossed into the phone lines with family members and individuals we’d never met for customer discovery.
My business and my vision of what Dough 4 Degrees could become changed drastically while taking her class. I had a firm understanding of what I believed since the day I founded the company - Dough 4 Degrees is more than a side project, it’s a lifestyle.
I completed my minor after I passed Management Theory & Leadership Practice with Ron Poff. Professor Poff has a courteous and encouraging teaching style that reinforces the importance of collaboration. Business is a competition. There’s no doubt about that, but it’s also the perfect time for collaboration. I learned how to leverage others’ resources, time, money, and skills to create mutually beneficial opportunities.
The entrepreneurship and management classes I’ve taken at Virginia Tech have taken my business acumen to another level.
Q: Was there a faculty member or staff member within Pamplin and/or the MGT department that served as a mentor or source of inspiration for you during your journey? A: Since my sophomore year, I’ve been a member of Innovate, a living-learning community dedicated to entrepreneurship. As a student who lives with and near many Hokie entrepreneurial-minded students, I’ve learned how to think differently. The Apex Center for Entrepreneurs’ team cultivates our thought processes. All of the team members, faculty, staff, alumni, and investors have influenced how I work as a student and an entrepreneur.
In addition to them, Steve Skripak, has been a voice of reason and sounding board for my ideas. Many faculty and staff members from the Management Department have aided me during my journey.
Q: What advice would you provide to an incoming Pamplin freshman? A: As an incoming Pamplin freshman, you have the opportunity to shape who you will become and how you will impact our campus. Your decisions lay the foundation for your future.
Budget your time wisely. Your four years will fly by, but your relationships can last forever. Take time to get your work done, meet with people daily, and always seek new opportunities to learn more about yourself.
Don’t take this period of life for granted. Always make sure to work from a heart of gratitude.
Q: What is your inspiration for entrepreneurship? A: My mentor, Thomas Harrelson, and my sister inspire me to pursue my dreams. They remind me that my efforts and consistency will lead to my opportunities.
I work for freedom. My goal is to have financial freedom and teach others how to have the same. I want my family to create habits that will maintain and foster our generational wealth. I want my work to transform the way people look at a debt-free degree and life.
Q: Please provide a brief summary of your job and/or intern search - who, when, how did you approach the process? A: Most of my internships have come naturally. They’ve been a result of relationships I’ve worked to maintain. When I meet someone, I like to identify a way that I can help them. My philosophy is that it’s better to give than to receive. Opportunities and paid internships have come as a result of my decision to give my time, energy, and insight.
Q: How did you spend the summer of 2018 - since May --- what has been your focus? A: This summer has been the best summer of my life. I spent May and the first week of June in Switzerland and Italy. I traveled to Riva San Vitale, Switzerland for a two-week study abroad experience with the Department of Communication. Studying abroad was a dream come true. I was exposed to different cultures, norms, and values. It’s an experience I encourage everyone to pursue and try to accomplish debt-free. I was able to and will teach students how to through Dough 4 Degrees soon.
After two weeks in Switzerland, I traveled to Milan, Florence, and Rome, Italy for fun. I have always wanted to explore Italy for several reasons; the main one is my love for Italian food. It’s my second favorite type of cuisine after soul food. I spent a week in Italy with family and friends.
Once I returned to the States, I dove head first into my work for Dough 4 Degrees and spent time with business owners in Northern VA. I completed the remainder of my study abroad assignments at the end of June.
The month of July was full of work and traveling. I traveled to Danville, VA, Greenville, SC, Atlanta, GA, and Winston-Salem, NC. My goal was to work and spend as much quality time with family as possible.
As August comes to a close, I’ve traveled for speaking engagements in Danville, Herndon, and Springfield, VA. I have some upcoming commitments in September that I’m preparing for now.
My focus this summer was to travel and see the world while working for Dough 4 Degrees. As an entrepreneur with a virtual business, I have the flexibility to work from any location that has secure WiFi.
Q: What are your plans after graduation? A: I will always be extremely grateful to Virginia Tech for all of my undergraduate experiences. Virginia Tech and the Hokie Nation have supported me during my adventures in NYC, Stanford University, Harvard, and more.
After I complete my co-op through Dough 4 Degrees in the Spring of 2019, I will relocate to Northern Virginia to continue my work as a full-time entrepreneur. I have some projects and ideas that need to be manifested.
Q: Any other words of wisdom or insights that you can provide us about you, your journey, the value of your education - Virginia Tech, Pamplin, the Department of Management, etc ... A: Choosing Virginia Tech and entrepreneurship are two of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I will forever be grateful to my scholarship providers who financed my ability to make those choices and avoid the student debt epidemic.
I encourage you to follow Dough 4 Degrees on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @dough4degrees for more updates on our progress. You can also learn about our products and services at www.dough4degrees.com.
If you want to learn more about me, then please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @djeffers_.
“The Management Department curriculum is thorough and thought-provoking. It takes students on a process of self-discovery and leads them to the doorstep of opportunities.”