Self-starter Lucy Carlisle ‘20 launched her own business, The Social Link, soon after graduation, but her runway started years earlier. Carlisle leveraged her degree in communications, plus internships and connections to give her the skills, knowledge, experience, and networks she needed to thrive in a new business.
The Social Link, a branding and marketing business based in Rhode Island with clients from across the country, is a passion project for Carlisle. “I have always been drawn to branding and how companies build their identities. Think of breweries and how each one has its own identity — cool and hip — or classic. That’s branding doing its job,” she says.
A grounding in communication, psychology, and writing
Carlisle found her academic home in the communication department. Professors helped her with writing skills, through one-on-one meetings, and the constructive criticism she needed to improve.
“I had such a great experience,” she says. “Sky Anderson had super funky classes that looked at brand psychology and how branding can elicit specific consumer emotions and reactions.”
Start-up Lab amplifies skills, builds networks
Denison’s Red Frame Lab gives students the programs, resources, and support to master design-thinking skills, work with clients, build professional networks, and even bootstrap their own start-up ideas.
After graduation, Carlisle signed on to a five-person Red Frame Consulting team for career coaching firm Revel Coach. They collaborated with owners Marcy Stoudt ‘94 and her sister Alison Nissen ‘89 to put a new program into motion for their business.
As valuable as the experience itself was, it also paid unforeseen dividends. “When I launched my business, I reached out to them, and Marcy became one of my very first clients. I really look up to Marcy’s dedication to supporting women in business. She took a risk on me as a young entrepreneur and I really appreciated her constant encouragement of my work from the early stages.”
Rick Coplin, Red Frame’s Entrepreneurship Coach, was an important mentor too, and even referred Carlisle to a Granville client. “He saw I had launched my business and set up a zoom call to ask me what I needed. The Red Frame experience couldn’t have been more perfect. It sparked in me that this was something I could do even though I’m only 23.”
“I’m so embarrassed to say I didn’t take advantage of the Red Frame Lab until after graduation. But the great thing about the Denison Difference — you can still take advantage of these things even after you graduate.”
Internships hone skills, solidify career direction
Carlisle made good use of her summers — she held three internships in marketing, public relations, and advertising over her time at Denison.
Her first internship was with communications agency JaiCG in Rhode Island. Then she set off to Australia the next summer for a semester abroad. The Australian school year starts in July and ends in November, so Carlisle spent the next three months in an advertising internship at Tribal Vision.
“Through all these internships I was slowly finding out what my niche was and what I really enjoyed doing,” she says. Her final internship was with ThinkFoodGroup in Washington D.C. that “empowers people and communities through food.”
“Honestly, it was a dream internship. I finally found what was perfect for me.” Carlisle continued to freelance for ThinkFoodGroup over the school year and hoped that work would turn into a job, but COVID-19 took a bite out of restaurant business and dashed that dream.
Figuring out the right path
Without definitive post-graduation plans, Carlisle found innovative ways to continue to grow her skills. She started to pick up freelance jobs again — and began garnering positive feedback.
“One of my clients signed me on for a year of work. That’s when I realized this was going to be a full-time job.”
After teaching herself to build her website, Carlisle launched her own business with 12 clients and a lot of project work that keeps on growing.