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OU alumni support each other through their woman-owned businesses

Beth Romer and Jackie Walsh met freshman year of college at Ohio University. Moving through the years of college together, living above Jimmy John's and always getting fresh whiffs of bread, Romer and Walsh made sure to stay in touch after their graduation in 2012.

Although they both ended up at OU and quickly became close friends, their academic and career paths look very different. 

Walsh came to OU to pursue a degree in specialized studies: specifically, advertising, marketing, public relations and sports management. After graduation, she worked for Hermes Sports & Events in Cleveland while also working as a bartender.

With the hardships of life piling up on her, she found she needed to do something for herself, and she started watching Bethenny Frankel yoga videos during her college days. Yoga has always been something she found herself using as an outlet.

“I more seriously got into yoga when my dad was really sick with cancer, and I was caretaking for him,” Walsh said. “It was just a nice way for me to carve out time for myself and be able to deal with having to take care of my dad as he was dying.”

After Walsh’s dad died in 2013 and her mom died from cancer when she was young, she wanted to take time for herself. She eventually decided to go to yoga teacher training in 2014 during a trip to Bali. 

“I really enjoyed the experience and didn't necessarily go into it wanting to teach but just (wanted) to get the hell out of Cleveland and away from my family and friends that were trying to be supportive. When you're considered an adult orphan, it's hard to navigate what you're doing,” Walsh said.

Returning from Bali, Walsh found herself teaching wherever she could and learning the ins and outs of the yoga industry and owning a studio. She taught for about five years and eventually opened up her own studio, calling it Hope Yoga Studio, in Fairview Park. The studio aims to use yoga and meditation to guide people on their journey through grief.

“The community is super supportive, especially because I'm from here and I live here again,” Walsh said. “We have been growing every single year despite this pandemic that happened just a year into me being open. I have been trying to offload different things because, as a small business owner, you wear 5 million hats.”

Romer can agree with Walsh: owning a small business is nothing less of a challenge and learning experience. Like Walsh, Romer grew into her role as a business owner. 

Studying retail merchandising and product development, Romer thought the fashion industry would be where she would end up one day. 

In college, she interned with Conde Nast and Women’s Wear Daily in New York City and realized the fashion industry may not be for her. After college, she secured a job at Abercrombie & Fitch Headquarters in New Albany.  

“It was a really great experience with our CEO and traveling around the world, opening flagship stores and merchandising things,” Romer said. “It was a really, really awesome and fun time in my life, but it was a lot. It was a lot of high pressure, and I wanted to try my hand at the buying side of the retail industry.”

She eventually switched to working for Speedway in Eaton and handled all purchases revolving around Speedway’s coffee. However, that job was not creative enough for her, so she relocated to Dayton to work for a marketing agency. She served as director and worked with Fortune 500 companies. 

“It was there that I quickly realized that there is absolutely nothing for small businesses, and any time a small business were to come to us or even a company with say $100,000 budget for marketing came to us, it wasn't something we wanted,” Romer said. “A lot of times there's no options for you that have good strategy, consistency and actually care about your business.”

Seeing this downside, Romer decided to go off and create a business that is understanding of women and all circumstances that people have to go through, especially those running a small business. With the goal in mind to support everyone, Romer eventually started Lulu & Leo's, a digital agency aimed to cater to the unique needs of small or local businesses.

With both women founding and owning their own businesses, they realized there was an opportunity to connect through their OU roots and work together. 

“I saw Beth had started her own business, and I love to partner up with other small businesses and, even though she isn't local to Cleveland, social media and marketing stuff can all be done remotely,” Walsh said. “I just reached out to her and was happy to be able to work with her and support her business as well.”

Together, Romer and Walsh have been able to produce a successful social media presence for Walsh’s yoga studio. Romer even said Walsh is one of her dream clients.

Not only does their professional relationship benefit each other, but it reminds Romer and Walsh about why they chose OU in the first place.

“Everywhere we went, I just felt like (OU) kept saying, ‘They would be so lucky to have me,' where, everywhere else, it was like, ‘You would be so lucky to go here,” Romer said. “Even with after college, anybody that we've stayed in touch with or that I know from OU, they're all amazing people that I want to stay in touch with.”

Owning a small business is an important part of Romer and Walsh’s lives, and they both love being woman-owned and being able to support other woman-owned businesses. Through learning what they wanted to do in life, they were able to navigate their way back to each other.

“Play around and see where your life goes, and don't get too hung up on staying in the same lane,” Romer said.


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