As the daughter of two business owners, Marissa (Evans) Alden (’06) had an entrepreneurial affinity from a young age. Having grown up outside of Boston, Marissa was drawn to the science curriculum at Cornell and pursued a major in Human Development within the College of Human Ecology. Though she found the major to be fascinating, she decided to take several classes in the Applied Economics and Management department to incorporate her interest in business into her studies. It was through these classes in the Dyson school that Marissa first learned about Student Agencies and immediately felt compelled to apply. As Marissa explains, “There was something about the idea of running my own business that really inspired me, especially because of my parents.”
During her time at Student Agencies, Marissa served as one of the managers of Campus Promotions (CP). The role was challenging for her initially given that it was her first experience learning the basics of business firsthand and holding real profit & loss responsibility outside of class. However, she quickly grew to love the work she was doing and reflects fondly on her position, “I really liked the productionization of our products. I loved being able to see the product from start to finish. It was all really fun and very collaborative.”
Marissa remarked how exciting it was for CP when Student Agencies first started building out its digital interface in 2004. “We were just starting to get online. Web design was novel at the time and no one really knew how to do it. I remember working with graphic designers and getting to experiment with different digital technologies.” In the 15 years since, each agency has developed its own distinct website, social media platforms, and digital marketing materials. CP has recently expanded its services to offer social media management and consulting to a growing portfolio of clients.
By helping shape Student Agencies into a more dynamic and tech-driven organization, Marissa gained the skills she needed to take her career to the next level. “It’s been awesome. It led me to want to go to business school after college. I’m now the CEO of a tech company and SAI was an amazing first step towards doing all of that.” Looking back on her experience, Marissa would advise any current students who are interested in becoming a part of SAI to “definitely do it––stay curious and eager,” and “try to take advantage and lean into opportunities that come your way.”
Having developed a passion for product management during her time as a manager of CP, Marissa now describes the consumer product sector as her “sweet spot,” and it has been a main focus of her professional life ever since. Marissa previously led the growth team of apparel rental service Rent the Runway for several years before founding Brooklyn-based tech startup Sawyer. The mission of Sawyer is to “make access to education for young children easier,” a goal that combines both her business acumen and expertise in the area of human development.