Published on December 4, 2019 by William Nunnelley  
Steiner Ashley SamfordStartup

Rebranding is a marketing strategy that students in the incubator of Samford University’s Brock School of Business are likely to encounter. A business or product might get a new name, symbol, design, concept or combination thereof in the process. 

Recent graduate Ashley Steiner experienced this with her own company in 2018. Steiner brought her business, Ashley Ink & Paperie, with her when she entered Samford in 2015. By her junior year, she was able, with the help of the business school, to rebrand her company into its next generation, Winnefred Austin, which features a line of upscale tote bags and other items.  

“From trademarks to LLC filings to the entire rebranding process, the incubator program helped me every step of the way,” said Steiner. “My company grew up with me during my time as a Samford student, and rebranding was a game-changer for growth and vision.” 

Steiner was involved in the business incubator throughout her years at Samford. She praises it for providing her with opportunities and support through mentoring and business competitions that helped her develop her entrepreneurial skills. 

But after several years of involvement with the program, Steiner began to sense that something was missing. While the incubator was helping students develop and launch business plans, Steiner said she felt the program itself needed a business plan. Interim business Dean Chad Carson and entrepreneur in residence Keith Brown agreed. 

“We felt that we needed to do more to promote this great opportunity for students to have a strong support system as they develop their entrepreneurial ideas,” said Carson. “So we asked Ashley to do an internship where she assessed the incubator program across all dimensions including operations, funding and branding. 

“One idea that came out of her work was to rebrand the program to provide it with an opportunity to develop ‘name brand recognition’ within Brock School of Business as well as other parts of campus since the program is accessible to business and non-business majors alike.” 

Steiner, Carson and Brown met regularly during the spring semester of 2019, processing several rounds of branding ideas. As the semester drew to a close, the name Samford Startup came to the table. 

“We brainstormed for months on the best way to communicate to students all across campus that this is the space for aspiring entrepreneurs.  We felt ‘Samford Startup’ communicates that vision,” said Brown. 

“I believe it captures the purpose of the program perfectly,” said Steiner. “It exists as a student-led business incubator to nurture student entrepreneurs in their development of intellect, creativity, faith and personhood through startup ventures.” 

The group made its rebranding official by handing it off to Samford’s Division of Marketing and Communication to design and install signage in Cooney Hall. 

“I look forward to seeing Samford Startup’s future growth and success for many more student entrepreneurs to come in the future,” said Steiner. 

“Our collaboration this past spring epitomizes what Samford Startup is all about,” said Brown.  “Just as students, faculty and administration work in concert through our incubator to help support their growing businesses’ needs, our team worked together here and elevated our resident programs and enhanced our physical space. 

“In addition to the rebranding, exterior signage and minor interior remodeling, Samford Startup’s new programmatic aspects include multiple workshops each month with mentors and business owners who discuss ‘best practices’ and ‘lessons learned’ through informal roundtables designed for conversation. The efforts of the spring have resulted in a phenomenal fall semester, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds,” he said.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.