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StartItUp conference brings entrepreneurs, students together



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Experienced entrepreneurs, college and high school students, faculty, staff and community members all learned from each other recently at the annual StartItUp conference sponsored by the University of North Georgia.

The third annual event was Sept. 19 at the Forsyth Conference Center and was created to ignite an entrepreneurial mindset and a zeal for starting new businesses in the North Georgia region.

Ruben Boling, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the college, said the Center wants to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem at the university.

“We have all these current, past and future students in one place to hear from successful entrepreneurs and learn so they can start their businesses,” Boling said. “The Center is there to provide support for any of you who want to do that.”

The biggest part of creating that atmosphere is to have successful entrepreneurs talk about what they did, how they did it and why, he said.

The three speakers at the event were Steven Carse, founder of King of Pops, Titania Jordan, CPO of and Patrick Pickens, owner and CEO of HiQ Cosmetics.

Pickens graduated from the college in 2013 and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He eventually partnered with tenured North Georgia professor of biochemistry and medicinal chemistry Dr. Holly Carpenter to launch their luxury skincare company.

Together, they customized exactly what they wanted, including hand selecting every ingredient.

“Holly and I had tried all the products out there,” Pickens said. “They were oily and horrible. The results were subpar. We wanted to create a product with luxury performance, but used quality ingredients. Nature is the best chemist.”

In order to be confident about selling something, you have to be confident about what you’re selling, Pickens said.

“Every single detail of our company is something both of us stand by,” Pickens said. “I can look everyone in the eye and say it’s the best product on the market. If you’re selling anything, even if it’s not tangible, it needs to be something you can sell and feel confident about selling. You need the passion and love for it.”

In business, people often make it about themselves, Pickens said, rather than the connections people make with others.

“Business owners sometimes think, ‘what’s better for me?’” he said. “Holly and I felt strongly that our business is built through everyone else. We aren’t the best people for everything and there’s no way you can be. We reach out to people who are better and can make us stronger.”

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