YSU Students Craft Own Paths Through Business Ventures

By Hannah Werle
YSU Communication and Journalism Major

YOUNGSTOWN – Students at Youngstown State University are taking the skills learned in the classroom and applying them to their entrepreneurial ventures, starting and growing businesses while still completing their degrees.

Ivan Bosnjak, a senior with a double major in information technology and marketing, runs his own entertainment company, Big Hot Entertainment. Bosnjak started the company in 2019, inspired by his passion for music.

“I was always really into music. I make my own music, but when you’re making your own music, you don’t make much money from it,” Bosnjak said. “Finding a way to make money from my interest in music, that’s where I found my drive to start DJing.”

Bosnjak has grown his business from DJing to a full-coverage entertainment package, offering a photo booth, character rentals, face painting, photographers, videographers and more.

Bosnjak naturally found a way to merge his professional and academic goals through networking at YSU. He credits these connections with aiding in his success and has since hired several YSU students with skills suitable to what the business offers.

Annabelle Himes (Photo by Olivia Rivera | YSU Graphic and Interactive Design Major)

“I take my success with a grain of salt. I know there are people doing a lot less, but I also know there are people doing a lot more. It’s always a race to the next step, to be the next thing and make it as big as you can,” Bosnjak said. “There’s no ceiling. It’s limitless how far you can go. Right now, as we’re still trying to grow and build everything, I’m excited about the direction we’re heading.”

Bosnjak isn’t the only student entrepreneur in the entertainment industry. Annabelle Himes, a senior human resource management major, has been running her character rental company, Heros and Tiaras, since 2018, starting when she was just a junior in high school.

“The business began when someone asked me to be a princess for a birthday party. Then individuals just kept asking me and asking me, and then they said, ‘Do you have more characters? Can I have a couple of princesses?’ So I started asking around, and the business grew and grew,” Himes said.

Himes said her experiences at YSU have taught her the various facets of running her business.

“My major is human resource management, which, you know, is managing individuals. And that’s what I do every day, is manage performers and schedule them and send them to different events and talk with clients,” Himes said. “I use every aspect of business – marketing, selling, accounting, finance, everything. YSU has been a great resource and tool for helping me to grow and expand my business.”

Himes credited the Williamson College of Business Administration’s faculty and its Small Business Development Center for guiding and encouraging her as the business has progressed.

Alexandra Galantis (Photo by Olivia Rivera | YSU Graphic and Interactive Design Major)

Alexandra Galantis took her venture to the next level, opening a salon on YSU’s campus, located on Lincoln Avenue. Galantis, a senior majoring in primary education, owns and operates AG Beauty Salon and Spa.

After receiving her nail technician license in 2019, Galantis worked as a nail artist while attending college. This gave her the funds and experience to open her own salon in April 2022, offering hair, skin and nail treatments, massages and more.

“We don’t really have anything like this on or near campus. I’ve heard students talk about how difficult it is to get their hair and nails done, especially for international students who don’t have cars,” Galantis said.

Galantis said the YSU community has supported her business in many ways, including visiting and referring others to her salon.

“The students are a big motivating force. Without them, none of this would be possible. The faculty, as well – everyone’s been very supportive. I would not be here today if it weren’t for all of the students, faculty and just generally the YSU community,” Galantis said.

Tyrese Hawkins (Photo by Olivia Rivera | YSU Graphic and Interactive Design Major)

Tyrese Hawkins, a senior majoring in business administration, created TenToesTy, reselling shoes and high-end streetwear.

Hawkins started his company after a football injury forced him to return home and begin at YSU.

“I used to be an athlete. I played football at the University of Ashland, but I got hurt. It was really bad. I couldn’t walk for a year,” Hawkins said. “One day, when I transferred [to YSU], I just picked up a pair of shoes and sold them – that’s when I dove all the way in, head first.”

Hawkins travels to events and conventions to find unique and high quality shoes and clothing. Then he brings the items back to the Youngstown area to be resold. Hawkins currently sells through Instagram but is working to open a space on Shopify soon.

Hawkins said YSU has helped him focus on moving forward and growing his business.

“School pushed me into my business, and pursuing my degree has helped add onto my knowledge of how to run my business. It’s crazy to see how far you can go,” Hawkins said.

Mya Snyder (Photo by Olivia Rivera | YSU Graphic and Interactive Design Major)

Hawkins isn’t the only entrepreneur with a mission to provide alternatives for high quality fashion. Mya Snyder, a senior majoring in marketing, with a minor in fashion, owns Sew What? Sew This! where she resells and redesigns fashion and accessories.

Snyder upcycles discarded textiles into wearable items using old blankets, tablecloths, curtains and other products to create handbags, tote bags and clothing.

Snyder took up sewing in 2020 during the Covid lockdown. A year later, her cousin invited her to sell the items she made at a local farmers market, which began her venture into business.

Snyder sells at flea and farmers markets, along with other vending fairs and expos. She also recently launched her website, which she hopes to start selling on after the holiday season.

Snyder said YSU and its professors have encouraged her and guided her. She said she knows she can ask professors questions about business, sewing and the like and apply what she learns to her business.

“As a marketing major, I really try my best to implement what I learn from my business courses into my personal business. All of the professors are so incredibly encouraging, and it’s so nice to know that you have people in your corner,” Snyder said.

The entrepreneurial venture of each student, though vastly unique to their own, displays their shared determination and dedication to their campus and community. Each story highlights not only a local business owner, but also a leader among their peers.

Pictured at top: Ivan Bosnjak, a YSU senior with a double major in information technology and marketing.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.