Wichita State student on path to create a sustainable clothing business

Angelique Banh is one of the two winners for the women’s innovation award. Banh is a graduate student in business administration. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

Women’s Innovation Award winner Angelique Banh said that the secret to her success was taking advantage of multiple different opportunities college has provided her.

“I think it just starts with being aware of what is going on throughout the campus, because that’s how I hear about different opportunities,” Banh said.  “Look into the club and join if you are interested and be engaged and committed to completing it, and that will help you on your way to being successful.”

As an undergraduate student, Banh obtained a degree in Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, Management, & Human Resource Management.  She also completed the Cohen Honors College Leadership Track.

Originally, I was a biology major but I switched at the end of my freshman year,” Banh said.  “Switching majors can be pretty nerve wracking, especially when you’re moving to a completely different college … Through that uncertainty, I was able to grow and navigate and honestly discover myself and what I really wanted to do.”

Banh said that she is proud of her commitment to earning scholarships through her college career.  Some of these scholarships include the Wichita State Merit Scholarship, the Cohen Honors College Merit Scholarship, and the John and Elizabeth Weatherby Fellowship recipient.

She is also proud of her movement to leadership positions in organizations, such as the Community Service Board president and the Love Your Melon campus crew president.

“I am proud of what I accomplished in my leadership positions, with the help of my team members,” Banh said. “Planning and executing a variety of events and getting students excited about being involved on campus.”

Through looking at opportunities on the Shocker Career Accelerator, Banh was able to get internships including a digital marketing intern at Bella Bonita Designs, a business operations intern at Airbus, and a management intern at Nothing Bundt Cakes.

I feel like WSU prepared me in terms of curriculum but I also feel like their applied learning department is really growing and that really pushed me and prepared me and helped me network with different employees in Wichita,” Banh said. “At Airbus, I got to be on the senior leadership teams and most people don’t really get that chance as a young student.  It was really priceless for me.”

Banh’s plans for the future include opening up a retail fashion boutique that sells clothes that were made sustainably and ethically.  With the award of $1,500, Banh plans to use that to purchase equipment, products, digital and print advertising, and pay legal fees.  She also hopes to eventually find other sources of funding.

Along with the monetary portion of the reward, the Center for Entrepreneurship is also mentoring me, so they are always open to emailing or setting up further meetings,” Banh said. “They also have connected me with people who have experience in the fashion industry.  I am grateful for both aspects of that.”

Banh’s interest in the fashion industry has grown after seeing that consumers are becoming more aware of unethical practices in fashion, such as exploiting workers in third world countries and the pollution that they create.

“That kind of planted a seed,” she said. “If we want to live on this earth and have future generations enjoy it, we need to take care of it and be responsible.  A big part of that is that it is possible to be more sustainable in practices, but companies don’t do it because it affects their profits.  I know it’s possible, they aren’t doing it.

 “If we make enough of a stir, changes will eventually be made.  It starts with the consumers and business leaders to change the minds of big companies,” Banh said.

Some of the ideas that Banh is considering for her business include having a donation box that she takes to different non-profits in the city of Wichita, in order to take out the work of sorting it on their own.  

Another idea that I had to extend the length of apparel items is a renting service, because I know it exists for tuxedo rentals, but I haven’t seen it with regular clothes for rent in Wichita,” Banh said. “Rental subscription boxes are pretty popular, and I think it’s a growing area. A rental closet where people can try on could be beneficial.”

Banh’s advice for students wanting to get the most out of their college experience is to absorb information about what is happening on campus, by reading signs and emails from Shocker Blast.

“When I transferred to the business school, the director of the Professional Edge program came and talked about how it would improve your soft skills alongside curriculum, and it was a commitment of about five hours of semester … If you like what you are doing, be consistent and follow through with it because those experiences can be put on resumes or talked about in future interviews, and it can set you apart from other candidates,” Banh said.

Networking has also been a valuable tool for Banh.  By working at fashion boutiques in different positions, reaching out to friends in K-State’s fashion program, and asking professors and advisors to connect her with people in the fashion industry, she has gained knowledge that will help her with her business.

“My network grows and I learn about the industry; it’s a slow process but I feel like it’s riveting and exhilarating to see who I am connected to next, what valuable info will they have for me,” Banh said. “It’s a lot of work but it is worth it in the end … You have to be proactive in reaching out to people and checking out the opportunities they tell you about.”

Banh’s advice to young girls who want to follow in her footsteps is just because you want to do something that not many people have done before, it shouldn’t be an obstacle.  Instead of running away from uncertainty, run towards it because you might become successful in your aspirations and become a trailblazer and mentor for other young girls to help them on their journey.

“WSU doesn’t have a fashion program, Wichita doesn’t have a fashion week, it’s not a fashion hub,” Banh said. “I considered not following this path because it would be hard and challenging because I might have people to ask for help, and then I was like, ‘You know what, I’ll work with what I have and do know and ask for help and find a way if there isn’t a way.  It might not be pretty, but I’m gonna do it.”