“Think big and try many things—it’s rare that something successful develops overnight. It takes time, patience and passion,” said Kassie Pollard who has taken her own experience and turned it into a passion for helping others.

At the age of twelve, Pollard suffered from an abnormal curvature of her spine, later learning she had scoliosis. “Scoliosis affected me throughout my middle school career, and I wanted to give back to young women that are undergoing the same struggles that I dealt with years earlier,” she said. A class at the Robins School of Business helped spark the idea behind Fushion Scoliosis Apparel, Pollard’s startup venture which provides clothing for young women with back braces suffering from scoliosis. “Professor Jeff Pollack’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship course encouraged each student to take an adventure by starting a unique business entity. I had to brainstorm an idea that created value and would be financially sustainable in the long-term,” she said.

Having to wear a back brace for the majority of her middle school years, Pollard wished there were more resources available to her to help manage the difficulties and insecurities that come with a scoliosis diagnosis. About six million people are living with scoliosis in the U.S., with the primary age of onset between ten and 15 years old. Females are eight times more likely to be fitted with a back brace to help correct the spine. Since back braces severely limit clothing options and comfort, Fushion Scoliosis Apparel was founded to make clothing available which will fit over back braces and restore some self-esteem and confidence.

Pollard’s venture has been both fulfilling and challenging. “The most rewarding element of my venture is knowing how fortunate I have been to come this far and give back to young women dealing with pains that scoliosis can cause,” she said. “However, the limited knowledge of creating, updating and managing a website remains the most difficult part.” She is receiving help with increasing her online presence from the Technology Learning Center (TLC) at the University of Richmond’s Boatwright Memorial Library, among other mentors.

“The Robins School of Business provides professors that are willing to motivate and help in any way possible. My professors really go out of their way in order to provide resources to allow me to succeed. Their stories are very inspiring and have aided me in exploring my potential,” Pollard said. She has also taken advantage of the speaking events hosted by the Robins School of Business to help inspire her and “get myself out in the world and gain experience.”

Currently a senior studying business administration with concentrations in marketing and management (innovation & entrepreneurship track), Pollard hopes to move to Brisbane, Australia, after her May graduation with a position in one of her fields of interest. She was recently nominated by Professor Pollack for the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) 2013 Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “Kassie represents a role model for women who have personally overcome obstacles to provide solutions for future generations,” Pollack said in his nomination. “She has a passion for helping others through her startup business and has been a leader on campus. Her role as a positive contributing member of all the communities in which she participates is inspiring.”

Pollard hopes to present her full line of clothing for Fushion Scoliosis Apparel at Vanderbilt Hospitals’ Fashion & Friends annual event in April 2013.