Degrees & Dreams
driven by passion and determination, entrepreneurs work diligently to create and manage their own businesses. MSUM students are creating entrepreneurial success stories of their own. Devon Liljenquist, Kayleigh Omang and Dillan Schmiedt each have embarked on building a business while simultaneously pursuing a four-year degree. While the demands of college and business ownership are high, these students are following their dreams.
Devon Liljenquist ’17 (accounting) received his real estate license while he was in high school at the age of 18. After three years in the real estate industry, he wanted a new venture. One of his clients was a certified public accountant who helped steer him toward accounting. After working for Tax Pros for eight months and shortly before graduating from MSUM in May, he became a partner-owner of the Fargo-based business.
“I knew a lot of the professors on a first-name basis and was able to get help easily and quickly. They were all pretty good about talking about real-world application of what we were learning,” he said.
This teaching style helped him take lessons from the classroom and channel them into his personal pursuit. After working independently in real estate, he knew he wanted to be a business owner. It was less about money and more about having the freedom to pave his own path. Although he’s enjoyed the perks of having his own business, it comes with challenges.
“Not only are you getting all the money that’s coming in but you also have to pay all the bills that come in and payroll is a huge expense,” he explained.
Kayleigh Omang, a senior photojournalism student with a minor in entrepreneurship, started her own photography business in 2015. Working on her high school yearbook fueled her interest in photography. However, she was more interested in writing, which is why she chose MSUM to pursue journalism. Although she enjoyed it, the facts-based writing style left a creative void, which drew her to pick up her camera again.
“I started taking photos of my friends and my dogs and soon I realized, ‘I think I could make money doing this,’” she said.
MSUM provided Omang the opportunity to work for The Advocate, the award-winning weekly newspaper produced by students, where she gained experience learning from her peers. She now photographs weddings professionally.
“It gave me resources to meet people who do this professionally and how to take my skills to the next level,” she said.
Similar to Omang, senior Dillan Schmiedt also shoots weddings. Instead of photos, he shoots and edits videos. After a high school friend asked him to film his wedding, others started asking him to do theirs, and his business took off.
Schmiedt has been creating videos since he was a kid, which made the decision to major in film production easy. Whether it’s concept development, writing, shooting, or editing, he enjoys every aspect of it. He loves bringing his clients’ vision to life.
“I learned everything I know about my industry from my courses at MSUM, and knowing the people in my major helped me get people to help with wedding shoots,” he said. “My business allows me to do more of the work I enjoy while also helping people who need my services.”
Following your dreams to pursue your passion is the essence of the American dream. For each of these students, the risk and courage it takes to begin their own businesses is already paying off. With the connections and mentorships they’ve formed at MSUM, accompanied by their own self-motivation and diligence, they hope to find continued success in the future. ■