Many students spend considerable time and energy applying for jobs during their senior year of college. Not so Sarah Olivia Hipwell. Instead, the Philadelphia native is focusing on growing Sarah Olivia Marketing, LLC, a Richmond-based digital marketing and public relations business she launched this past August.

“I have positioned myself as a luxury lifestyle branding agency,” Hipwell said. Her firm implements social media marketing strategies that elevate the brand and reach of small- to medium-sized businesses.

Clients include a real estate group specializing in the sale of luxury homes, a company that provides household management services and personal assistants for businesswomen, and a high-end skin care company.

Hipwell has parlayed lessons learned from her two majors—leadership studies and business administration with a marketing concentration—into her start-up business.

“At the Jepson School of Leadership Studies we talk about different ways of being a leader,” Hipwell said. “Jepson encourages us to think outside the box. I wanted to lead a company in a way other than the typical leader-follower model. My business model is more an egalitarian, collaborative partnership between my employees and me.”

She credits her Jepson course Justice and Civil Society, taught by Dr. Julian Hayter, with teaching her the power of empathy in leading a group. “Dr. Hayter taught in a controversial, provocative way and encouraged us to push back,” she said. “His class taught me about the kind of person I aspire to be in the Richmond community.”

E. Claiborne Robins School of Business marketing professor Joel Mier also inspired Hipwell. “He challenged me to explore the endless paths of marketing,” Hipwell said.

Hipwell chose her leadership studies major in part because of the internship requirement, she said. In summer 2017, she interned in London in the marketing department of the UK2 Group (now The Hut Group), a digital agency. Last summer, she fulfilled her Jepson internship requirement by interning with Pure PR, a London-based public relations firm.

“My internships helped me determine what I do and don’t want to do,” Hipwell said. “I realized I loved the small, intimate setting that start-ups provide as well as the freedom and creativity of freelancing.”

Through her internship searches, Hipwell honed valuable networking skills, which she’s used in developing Sarah Olivia Marketing.

“Because I’m still a student, I realize I can’t do everything,” Hipwell said. “I’ve had to create a network of other like-minded, entrepreneurial women from all over the world. I’ve found designers, copywriters, and social media managers who are contributing to the flourishing of my business.”

Hipwell looks forward to continuing to run her own business in downtown Richmond post-graduation.

“As an entrepreneur, I have the freedom to tell clients what direction I think will work best for them and their business,” Hipwell said. “I’ve become the expert, because I've had to. I’ve established myself as a woman of business and leadership who is capable and credible.

“My University of Richmond education fostered my creativity, leadership, and critical thinking. I will use these skills to encourage other women to pursue an entrepreneurial path.”