From Student to CEO
While many of her classmates have focused on finding a job postgraduation this December, Emily Neville has been looking forward to turning her full attention to the job she already has: CEO.
Neville, who will graduate from NC State this week with a B.A. in political science and a minor in French, founded Reborn Clothing Co. as a college sophomore. The company is committed to reducing textile waste by transforming garments with nostalgic value into usable products that include duffel bags, pillows, dog beds and laptop sleeves.
It hasn’t been easy juggling her coursework and Reborn. The company now has 14 employees, four of whom are full-time, and has licensing agreements with roughly 20 universities and as many retailers. But Neville shared one of the secrets to her success.
“Surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you in their areas of expertise,” she said. “Even when I’m in class, I know the company is still running and functioning without me.”
Even with the right people in place, Neville said the past few years have involved a lot of late nights as she split her focus between school and her business.
Neville is also a recipient of the prestigious Park Scholarship. The four-year scholarship at NC State covers tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel and personal expenses. Park Scholars also are eligible for grants to fund professional and personal enrichment experiences.
If classes and Reborn weren’t enough, being a Park Scholar comes with its own set of opportunities and responsibilities, but Neville said she wouldn’t have had her NC State experience turn out any other way.
“Being a Park Scholar means a lot to me,” Neville said. “We’re a very tight-knit community.”
Student support through the Park Scholarships program and other scholarship opportunities across campus is why Neville says she and other students are able to succeed on campus and pursue their dreams at the same time.
“NC State is an awesome place that creates opportunities that really encourage students to get out in the real world and pursue their dreams and passions,” Neville said. “Donors are supporting the next wave of change makers.
“Everyone (at NC State) is so curious about solving problems in the world, ready to get their hands dirty and to work those 80 hours a week – NC State students and alumni don’t shy away from some of our largest problems.”
That attitude is part of what has made Neville a role model and a mentor to other students on campus, something she enjoys.
“I’m very involved in NC State Entrepreneurship,” she said. “That’s been really fun, to mentor new students that are thinking on an idea or have started on an idea.”
If all of that doesn’t sound like enough to keep her busy, Neville has one more side project to be proud of. She was interning for state Rep. David Lewis during her freshman year when a request came across his desk for a boys and girls club in Harnett County, where Neville grew up. She decided to take that request and run with it.
Thanks to her support, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Carolina opened its doors to its first 100 students this fall, something Neville said she couldn’t be more excited about.
All of these opportunities at NC State for Neville to pursue her dreams and passions have also prepared her for what’s next.
“There was not a lot of hand holding – I was expected to continue on with my courses, meet Park requirements and be a student at NC State,” Neville said. “But I’ve also been encouraged to seek ways to be a full-time student while being a full-time CEO; I don’t feel like I’ve had to choose between those two.”
Graduation is bittersweet for Neville. She’s ready to focus on Reborn but recognizes everything that the milestone implies.
“While I was a student, being a student was supposed to be my job – so whether Reborn worked or didn’t, it didn’t feel as risky,” she said. “Now, it has to financially support me and support a lot of other people.”
The plan is to continue to grow the company, and to add more people to her team. The addition of a full-time salesperson this summer helped Reborn take off in both the university and the retailer markets.
“I’m excited to be there more for my team now that I won’t be in classes,” Neville said. “I get to step into this role that I created for myself; it’s kind of crazy but very exciting.”