An idea for an outfit for their sorority’s bid day led to the creation of an online company for University of Mississippi student Elizabeth Lanford and her partner, Lindy Goodson.
“We had letter beads and some old glasses, and we just kind of thought of this idea of sticking letter beads on glasses,” said Lanford, a member of Phi Mu. “Lindy and I both made a pair. People liked them and were offering to pay us to make them.”
Fraze Shades, which offers customers custom-made sunglasses, was founded during Lanford’s sophomore year. The business began through an Instagram page then expanded to a website for ordering, with Facebook and Pinterest accounts joining Instagram as marketing tools.
The Ole Miss First Scholar and May graduate of Ridgeland, Mississippi, credits the support and resources available on the Ole Miss campus with helping her and Goodson take their idea from their residence hall room to the boardroom.
“Owens Alexander at Ole Miss’ Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship helped us tremendously when we were developing our business. He always had encouraging words when we were experiencing burnout and connected us with so many resources at the School of Law and even locally around Oxford.
“He really believed in our vision and our product even though it was a little outside of the norm for the School of Business Administration.”
An integrated marketing communications major with minors in Spanish and business administration, Lanford said she is grateful for the Ole Miss First Scholarship she received that – besides financial assistance, mentoring and leadership development – opened up numerous opportunities during her academic career.
“The scholarship gave me the time to focus on my classes and extracurricular activities and to be able to take risks like starting a business. I also was able to meet and network with alumni and other students on campus because of being an Ole Miss First Scholar.”-Elizabeth Lanford, Ole Miss First Scholar
In addition, the National Merit finalist was successful in presenting the business plan for Fraze Shades in competitions around the region. Lanford and Goodson captured third place at the Gillespie Business Plan Competition on the Oxford campus, won Best of Ole Miss at the Oxford Regional Business Plan Competition and competed at the SEC Business Plan Competition in College Station, Texas.
The two were awarded multiple grants from the Rebel Venture Capital Fund and office space in Insight Park on the Oxford campus as well.
“I will forever be grateful for the amount of resources I was offered at Ole Miss. If you find something that you are passionate or excited about, people at this university will do anything to help you pursue it,” Lanford said.
“The amount of people who have become involved with our business and helped us build it is absolutely incredible. I think this was apparent when we moved our office into Insight Park, a business incubator, a little over a year after we started. To sit back and look at how far we have come in such a little time is very cool.”
While Fraze Shades has been a major part of Lanford’s college experience, she pursued other interests during her four years at Ole Miss. She served as a member of RebelThon, interned with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, worked as a digital assistant with Ole Miss Athletics Marketing, and studied abroad in Chile and Ethiopia.
“There are so many passionate people all around working on different projects. Everyone you meet knows something you don’t. There is an opportunity every day to learn something new.”
Lanford plans to continue working on Fraze Shades and is considering participating in the Auxiliares de Conversación program through the Spanish government to teach English in Spain for a year. Afterwards, she hopes to return to Mississippi and continue working on entrepreneurial ventures.
“I know that my experience at the University of Mississippi not only has prepared me for this plan but also has given me the ability to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams with confidence. Starting a new business can be risky but I now know I am capable and have the perseverance to make it work.”
For more information on the Ole Miss First Scholarship program, visit https://omf.olemiss.edu. To learn more about creating an Ole Miss First Scholarship, contact Suzanne Helveston, development associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2956.
By Mary Stanton Knight