Wearing Many Hats Suits Full-Time Student, Business Entrepreneur Just Fine

Wearing Many Hats Suits Full-Time Student, Business Entrepreneur Just Fine

Aspen Scharff, a University of San Diego senior and entrepreneur, is a young woman of many hats.

Aspen Scharff - photos

“I feel like as a person in a brand I have one picture in an all-black suit, all business, and another in a funky hat wanting to do something creative that’s never been done before.”

Founded in 2019, Aspen Scharff is also the name of a design company specializing in commercial and residential interior design.

“I chose to do Aspen Scharff because really what I am offering is my design services which could be anything from interior design for residential properties, commercial properties, event design, furniture remodeling, I’m even designing a fish tank right now! It’s pretty much project-based.”

Over the past six months, Aspen Scharff has been remodeling a six-unit commercial building into an international boutique hotel on Fifth Ave. and Broadway in the Gaslamp District. Using her creative side, she curated a master plan to have each room be an entirely different theme ranging from Joshua Tree to safari. Her goal is for each guest to leave feeling like they’ve had a one-of-a-kind experience in San Diego.

Transferring to USD in Spring 2018, Scharff found inspiration for her business venture through her communication studies major curriculum, specifically Professor of Practice Gina Lew’s media writing and advanced journalism courses. “First semester I was intimidated and I didn't quite grasp the level of academia but halfway through Professor Lew challenged me to be present and apply myself here and I just took her words very seriously.”

Scharff said USD created a community in which she felt she could create and be confident in her abilities. “I think it all started at USD. I learned how to write and tell stories from a more academic perspective and that led to me becoming the social media producer for USDtv News and, ultimately, led to all of my knowledge of social media and building a social media platform and brand.”

Establishing a positive community around her company, Scharff credits USD for teaching her about inclusion, changemaking and integration. “My personal brand on Instagram has 210 followers but those 210 people personally know me one way or another and USD has taught me to connect and build a firm foundation with others. Everything has come full circle.”

Scharff praises another important role model, Communication Studies Professor Leeva Chung and the impact she's had on her business. “What a powerful woman, she's very wise and I think her Interpersonal class is the most important one because I work in an emotion-based environment and a lot of the time I am trying to pull someone’s vision out that they cannot technically articulate. That’s why I am good at what I do. I can vocalize these visions. Dr. Chung gave me the tools to understand communication is essential.”

The USD Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference, held annually in the fall, gives students, faculty and alumni an opportunity to learn directly from a panel of USD alumni and community members. They share entrepreneurial triumphs and failures with the intention of inspiring those who are ready to take the next step in making their business venture a reality.

“I love the Legacy Conference,” she said. “There are some pretty powerful business owners and entrepreneurs that speak who are my inspirations.”

Her biggest takeaway from the conference was understanding the meaning of entrepreneurship.

“I think what I found most helpful was to not get beaten down when you aren't doing good because everyone at one point is not doing good. As an entrepreneur that’s what sets you apart. You are those failures and you turn them into lessons and those lessons help you grow and become successful.”

Another hat Scharff proudly wears is one for real estate. In August, Scharff obtained a real estate license and began as a team marketing assistant at Bilicki Rees Real Estate through Compass. Integrating her business knowledge and experience so far, her next goal is to flip a home in the new year. “That will be a big milestone. Once I do one it will be game on.”

Taking 18 units, running a full-time business and working on a team is challenging, but Scharff’s is committed to make it work.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do. And it’s the hardest thing anyone will ever do, trying to balance six classes, starting your own business while working for another person, too. It’s pretty crazy and I don't think it’s for everyone but I couldn't imagine it any other way at this point. I love being constantly challenged and pushed forward.”

So, what’s next for this student entrepreneur? Both Aspen Scharff the business and Aspen Scharff the business woman are eager to get started on a new project: East Village Tavern and Bowl, located on Island and Broadway in the Gaslamp District. The 15,000 square-foot bar and bowling alley is set for a complete renovation and that means Scharff is ready to put her creative hat on once again.

“The look is going to be rustic vintage and most of the foundational materials we are using are repurposed from a home in Summerville, Oregon,” she said. “Another reason I’m excited is that I love turning something beautiful into something useful.”

—Chloe Zakhour '21

Photo of Aspen Scharff by Chloe Zakhour; Photos of designs provided by Scharff

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