Written by Sarah Cauzillo, Writing Major
Where does being passionate and courageous bring you? For Erayna Sargent, a 2005 graduate of Grand Valley, it has brought her many places, including her role as a founder of a successful nonprofit and her position as Marketing Director at an adventurous startup company.
However, Sargent was not always on this road. She was originally a computer engineering major when she started at Grand Valley as a freshman. It was not until she went to the Career Center at Grand Valley that she was able to identify her true passion: Marketing.
Sargent’s vision led her to an internship at an ad agency in Chicago. There, she was able to get a real understanding of the agency world, identify the path she wanted to pursue, and set expectations for her post-graduate career.
Even 11 years later, Sargent remembers those who gave her a helping hand. The late Dean Oliver Wilson of Multicultural Affairs and Troy Farley in the Career Center were positive influencers of both her education at Grand Valley and her first internship. In addition, it was Dean Williams in the Seidman College who was especially instrumental in helping Sargent make the post-graduate transition, take her first professional risk, and pursue career options in West Michigan. She is certainly glad she took Williams’ advice, because the choice to stay in West Michigan after graduation led to what Sargent cites as her greatest accomplishment in her career thus far: BL2END.
Shortly after launching her career in West Michigan, Sargent noticed the need for a community to support diversity in business. As a result, Sargent worked to fill this void and helped found BL2END: Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions, an environment where young professionals of color can connect, develop, grow, and give back. This collaborative nonprofit has been engaging young professionals and impacting the futures of diverse leaders in the area for 10 years. In addition to the good it has done for the community, it’s what Sargent is most proud of, and it has increased her confidence in her ability to make a difference.
Today, “the ability to make an impact” is the greatest motivation for her success. Through the progression of her professional development — including business school, internships, and marketing positions with Nestlé, and now her Marketing Director position at PRE Brands — Sargent has realized: “I have the capability to determine my future.”
And it all started at the Career Center at Grand Valley. Guidance from the faculty and staff helped her find her best career path, and it has certainly led her to success. When leaving her secure job with Nestlé to be the Marketing Director at PRE Brands, Sargent took a risk, but she just could not resist the challenge! PRE Brands is an enthusiastic grass-fed beef brand, and Sargent is now managing every touch point of the brand and communication vehicles. With all of these experiences under her belt, Sargent advises her fellow Lakers to take risks, giving ourselves the opportunity to do great things and succeed.