Growing up in Mansfield, Ohio, Bria Meisse was surrounded by entrepreneurs. Now, as a recent Ashland graduate with majors in political science and international business, she’s preparing to carry the small business torch forward–just not in the way you might expect.
“My grandfather started a radio station and broadcasting company in Mansfield back in the 1950s,” she says. Her grandfather and father currently own WMFD, which her father runs along with several radio stations of his own. “So, I was around that growing up. When I was a junior in high school, I even convinced my parents to open a coffee shop called The Cove in Ontario (Ohio). It’s always been my passion.”
She recounts her experiences helping out at the stations, even opening a drink stand at one to sell beverages to the employees and station visitors. “I had to borrow money from my dad to buy the supplies and the drink fridge. So, whenever I made money, I had to pay some of it back toward the loan. It taught me a lot about business and responsibility, even at age 11.”
Although she would love to one day open a coffee shop of her own–“By a beach somewhere,” she laughs–her sights are currently set on a different facet of the business world.
“Right now,” Bria says, “my career goal is to become an advocate or policy analyst for small business legislation and policy.”
Before graduating in May 2023, she began working full-time as a legislative aid for the Ohio House of Representatives in January. This employment opportunity followed directly from a successful internship with the State House last summer. “The Governor’s budget,” she says, “is only signed into effect every two years. So, my supervisors arranged to hire me early so the money for the position would be there. My advisors at Ashland reworked my schedule so I could work full-time in Columbus and finish my classes online.”
If you had asked her only four years ago to predict where she would be now, her answer would not have been working for the state government. While she’d certainly heard of Ashland University growing up in Mansfield, it wasn’t near the top of her list in high school. But when she was recruited by the late Danny Krispinki, the girl’s soccer coach at the time, she made an instant connection. And although he passed away the year she entered the program, she joined the team and built immediate relationships with her teammates.
After a concussion sidelined her during her sophomore season, she left the team. At the same time, her interest in small business and policy creation came together with her admittance into the Ashbrook Scholars Program. From this point on, she knew what she wanted to do. But she wasn’t sure how to get there.
“I was starting work on my thesis,” she says about the required final capstone project for her majors and Honors Program membership. “I wanted to do something with both small business and legislation, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to finish it. I knew I didn’t know enough to make it happen.” When she went to Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Mark Nadler for help, two things happened simultaneously. Doors began to open, and she knew she’d found not just a mentor but also a friend.
“Dr. Nadler suggested I add two classes specifically for my thesis,” she says. “I needed to deeply understand both data analytics and programming languages. He also found an opportunity for me to deliver my thesis at an event held at the Federal Reserve.”
This experience and the connections she made throughout her undergraduate career were instrumental in securing her current position in the State House. “I learned so much from presenting at the Federal Reserve. You have to take very complicated issues and explain them clearly. That wasn’t one of my strengths at the time. But it is now.”
While her current position in Columbus isn’t her final career objective, it is a critical stepping stone. So far, her story is a testament to the value of taking full advantage of the opportunities you encounter.
“Dr. Nadler taught me never to fear the word ‘no,’” she says. “Not to be afraid of rejection. That’s been a big lesson for me.”
She has two pieces of advice for those considering following their passions to Ashland University.
“First, find a professor you connect with,” she says, citing her relationships with Dr. Nadler and Dr. Robert Wyllie, Assistant Professor of Political Science. “They will open doors and give you an incredible amount of support. Reach out and build those relationships. Second, find a project that interests you and relates to what you want to do after graduation.”
And then, she says, go after what you want and make it happen.