Congratulations on winning the 3rd annual Biola Startup Competition. What is the mission of your new venture, youniquely_made? Talk a bit about your giftedness also. How & when did you discover what you are good at?

“An MBA and graphic design? What are you going to do with that?!” That’s usually the reaction I get when I tell people about my career path. Don’t worry, I thought the same thing too. But God had His plan.

It all started out as an easy art elective in high school. I was 16 when I took my first photo class. Little did I know I liked it so much that I ended up getting my bachelors in visual journalism with a minor in graphic design and Bible from Biola. After seeing consistent miscommunication between management and creatives while working in the print industry, I decided to pursue an MBA to learn more about business.

I left my job to pursue full-time school, not knowing a thing about accounting, corporation structures, or marketing strategy. I was lost. I knew I liked the graphic design but was disillusioned by my previous work experience. I did not really know what I was going to do with an MBA. I did not want to go back to being a graphic designer, but I did not necessarily want to be a manager at a creative firm either. Honestly, I think discovering giftedness is seeing how God has created you through the mixture of your talents and circumstances. Most of the time, that means trying things out!

That is exactly what I was able to do in the Startup Competition. Fun fact; the original idea of our company started as a class project. The Startup Competition started around the same time as the assignment. I just tried it out. My teammates tried it out. Through refinement and a lot of work, a company was born! Our team identified a problem of devalued client-designer relationship and offered a solution to match graphic designers and clients using our proprietary algorithm to match based on aesthetic style, personality, and social compatibility. Today, our company, Youniquely_made exists to create collaborative experiences by celebrating personal identity through our freelance platform.

If you would have asked me two years ago what kind of company I would have created, I would have made something up. But in God’s time, I look back and see how our company is a reflection of God’s work in my life, including my passions and circumstances. Throughout the entire competition, and even now, our team’s main goal is not money or success. Instead, it is acknowledging how God has gifted each of us and doing something with it.

2) What did the Biola Startup Competition uniquely add to your MBA education?

The Startup competition gave me access to inspiring speakers and experts in different industries who challenged my beliefs about business. It helped me take my ideas beyond the classroom as I learned how to think deeply about problems and solutions. I learned that redemptive entrepreneurship is more than just good business practice, but a biblical mandate to redeem the broken structures of the world.

The competition gave us a real-world experience to work as a team, write a business plan, and pitch an idea to investors! Think “Shark Tank”. Most of all, our team was given an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with a network of believers who believed in us!

3) How did participating in the Biola Startup Competition shape/influence your future path?

I never thought I was an entrepreneur. I never had a life-changing idea or loved selling things. I learned entrepreneurship is more than that. Business is about meeting needs - and that’s a good thing! It made me re-evaluate the theology of work and gave me hope that working is not just about a paycheck but blessing others.

4) How has the Biola Startup Competition and your Praxis Academy experience informed your thoughts relating to integrating theology, culture, and entrepreneurship? Your ‘business as ministry’ perspective?

Entrepreneurship is for everyone. At its core, it is caring about a problem so much that you solve it. This is included in the Biblical mandate in Genesis 1 to be “fruitful, multiply, fill and subdue the earth.”

Over 15 countries were represented at this year’s Praxis Academy. We heard about different individuals solving different problems - from food problems in Colombia to a company solving the housing crisis by developing the world’s first 3-D printed house. After hearing the passions of different people, it was clear that God gifted each individual differently to solve different problems.

Biola’s school of business challenged me to see every part of my life as a ministry to serve others. Ministry is not confined to a place, time, or role. It is a way of life to acknowledge God’s providence in placing each individual in his/her family, geography, time, and culture. God can work through every vocation at every place in our lives. To think anything less would be to miss an opportunity to see God’s greatness!

5) What is your company doing right now? What are you doing now?

I love my team! My teammates, Chris Wong and Jasper Lee, continue to push our company to the next step even when I may feel discouraged. We are currently in research and development. We built the first version of our algorithm and are in the middle of testing it. Then we will comb through the data and see where we can improve. It is an exciting time for us to keep learning and growing. Interested in updates? Sign up here!

I recently started working at Biola as the Undergrad Admissions Marketing Manager! I help share about Biola and get to be a part of the communication with prospective students on multiple platforms! The first week on the job, I could not believe a position could blend graphic design and business so perfectly. I see content go through many phases - from the copy to design. I also get to see the business side of things, such as the budget or new initiatives to improve our communication efforts. It is a rewarding position to witness how even one email can play a vital role in a student’s journey!

Karissa seeks to bridge the gap between creatives and management. She is fascinated by marketing and the ability to reach a specific demographic by understanding data. She loves numbers and nerdy details that explain why things work. She lives by a rule to always answer if someone asks about what God has done in her life - So ask her! She is amazed at God’s perfect plan and gives Him all the glory. Karissa and her husband Joe reside in Southern California. They enjoy rock climbing, eating, and laughing.