When Katherine Cochrane got a job as an assistant to top-selling Athens real estate agent Barbara "B" Presnell, she did it to learn more about the major she hoped to pursue at Terry. What she didn't expect was that her camera work and way with people would lead to profitable lessons in networking and entrepreneurship while also reinforcing the value of a business education.
A skilled photographer whose work has appeared in the leading photography magazine, Shutterbug, Cochrane turned her craft into an asset and eventually her employer into a client with the creation of KCochraneMedia, an online business specializing in real estate photography, graphic design services, and interactive virtual tours of homes.
Cochrane, who will graduate in May 2009 with a double major in real estate and Spanish, may have lacked experience, but she wasn't short of confidence.
"I think that has always been there for me," says Cochrane, thanks in part to her father, a residential developer in Atlanta. "My dad always instilled in me that I could be anything that I wanted to be."
Cochrane did clerical work at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education when she arrived on campus, but was eager to move over to real estate to build her résumé. She had to overcome a few obstacles first. She didn't know anyone in Athens real estate, had not yet been accepted to Terry, and her only job prospect that was remotely related to real estate was an offer to interview as an admin for a tree removal service.
But she saw the meeting as an opportunity rather than a dead end, and midway through the interview the prospective employer recognized that Cochrane would be an ideal match for one his clients, who turned out to be Presnell, a venerated member of the Athens real estate community.
"Next thing I knew I was in her office," Cochrane says of her serendipity. "I told her I could do flyers and help her with photographing her listings and putting them together. She was great — she took me in like a daughter."
Cochrane did several projects for Presnell including photography for binders and flyers and even a layout that appeared in the Athens-based magazine Southern Distinction. It became increasingly apparent to Cochrane that there was a demand in the Athens real estate market for these services and with a competitively priced product customizable to a client's needs she could go into business for herself. She approached Presnell with the idea and Presnell liked it so much she became Cochrane's first client.
Forming KCochraneMedia was like an independent study in the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and an exercise in effective networking. She frequently pitched ideas to real estate professor Richard Martin, learned how to use QuickBooks from her friend and accounting grad, Holly Hunter (BBA 2008), and asked accounting lecturer Amanda Farmer for advice on the basics of setting up a business.
"She was very personable when she came to my office," said Farmer, who also referred Cochrane's services to Gary LeFeuvre, who was vice president of operations for The Summit Agency, the nation's largest provider of real estate publications. "She seemed very mature from a business sense because she had that passion."
Cochrane, who is considering a career in property law, gained a nice source of supplemental income from the venture and, more importantly, valuable experience. "It's like you're building a big jigsaw puzzle and slowly you find the pieces that work and you put them together."
She cited her Terry education as an instrumental part of the process. "I don't have extensive knowledge of every subject I studied, but I have a basic one. You're not starting completely cold. More than that was the human resources...if you are willing to show interest, people will help you."