This spring, as the country began grappling with rising unemployment and summer internship programs were canceled due to the coronavirus, a group of rising second-year students at the VCU Brandcenter shifted gears to create their own Plan B. In a matter of months they launched The Carriage House, the Brandcenter’s first student-run creative co-op and an alternative to the summer internships that had been cut.
Brandcenter students typically intern at agencies and brands across the country in the summer before their second year. While some students are still participating in virtual internships this summer, the COVID-19 crisis canceled most internship opportunities, leaving students with limited options for real-world experience.
“When we left for spring break, we expected to return to classes rejuvenated and ready to tackle the end of the semester,” said Brandcenter student Shannon Gill. “We did not know the majority of us would see our internship and job offers withdrawn due to COVID-19.”
The Carriage House — named for the Brandcenter building's original use as the carriage house for The Jefferson Hotel — is a full-service creative co-op of 50 Brandcenter students and recent graduates. Capabilities include campaign and marketing collateral, creative strategy, website design, brand positioning and strategy, social media, SEO/SEM strategy, public relations, brand identity and logo design. All work is currently pro bono; if a client wishes to make a payment of any amount, they are encouraged to donate to Brandcenter student scholarships.
The co-op currently has 11 clients made up of local businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs. Industries include textiles, art galleries and handling, cosmetics, landscaping, food and hospitality, genealogy and life coaching. Throughout the summer, Carriage House students will work in teams to put the creative problem-solving skills they've learned at the Brandcenter into practice for their range of clients.
Leading The Carriage House are six executive board members from the Brandcenter’s five concentrations: Gill, Dinma Onyekwere, Kim Burgess, Alexandra Daniel, Chrissy Boals and Sophie Whitfield. The co-op also has established two creative partnerships, one with Art 180, a local Richmond nonprofit that provides art programming to underprivileged youth, and one with GreenWave, an NGO that focuses on sustainability in aquaculture/ocean farming.
Learn more about The Carriage House on its website, and follow the students on their journey throughout the summer on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Alumni and industry mentors interested in guiding and inspiring the students throughout the summer can email The Carriage House at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out a mentor interest form.