January 28, 2015
Conner Writt packs up his custom Chuck Taylors while talking with students after entrepreneurial class presentation. Culver photo/Jan Garrison

Conner Writt packs up his custom Chuck Taylors while talking with Culver students after his entrepreneurial class presentation. Culver photo/Jan Garrison

Sometimes finding out what you don’t like is as important as finding your calling. Indiana University senior Conner Writt had the rare opportunity to discover what he wasn’t meant to do this past summer.

Graduating from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in May, Writt interned at Macy’s headquarters in New York City and found that working for a large business wasn’t in his future. He discussed his summer experience and his unique opportunity to design a special Chuck Taylor sneaker for Columbus, Ind., with Culver Academies’ entrepreneurial classes on Friday, Jan. 23. His visit was made possible by the Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur.

“It lacked in versatility,” he said of his internship position with the retail giant. “They have a very rigid corporate culture. I just didn’t like it. You have no chance for vertical or horizontal movement. They offered me a full-time position and I turned it down.”

He went to I.U. to become an attorney, but realized that dream “was not that cool,” either. Now, his major is marketing with a minor in fashion design.

He used his fashion design skills to aid the athletic shoe company Converse and the city of Columbus to celebrate the birthplace of Chuck Taylor, the famous basketball player/shoe salesman for whom the iconic canvas sneaker is named. Taylor played basketball at Columbus High School, graduating in 1919.

One of his fashion design professors contacted Writt about entering the university competition to design a Chuck Taylor shoe specifically for Columbus. His initial design concept was selected, but that was only the start of two months of working with Converse and city officials to refine the final design.

While he never got paid for the job – he didn’t even get a free pair of the shoes – Writt said he was happy to go through the experience. The limited edition shoes were sold at the price break point and strictly limited to the Columbus area through a local sporting goods store and a special online site. Still, they sold 250,000 pairs of shoes.

Writt said he has learned something from every job he has taken. From mowing lawns in junior high to working as a volunteer at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis (he met Danny DeVito, Jessica Simpson, Carson Daly, and Maroon Five) from the Macy’s internship to designing the commemorative shoes all have helped expand his abilities.

“Explore and do new stuff,” he said. “Don’t allow yourself to be pigeon-holed. Every job is a stepping stone.”

And, when a person considers only staying with one company for an average of five years, learning new tools is essential. Writt said he is self-taught on Adobe Design products and he is now learning to write software code. His first position after graduation will be with a financial software firm, which will give him the freedom to keep learning how to write code.

His advice to students was to not be be afraid to call on their Culver instructors and college professors for assistance or guidance. “They are your role models and your mentors. They want to help you. Take advantage of that.”

They are your role models and your mentors. They want to help you. Take advantage of that

He added that students should “always be prepared.” Your image on social media will impact your position (establish a profile on LinkedIn). Don’t be afraid to use your alumni network connections. Also, practice interviewing. He practiced with his roommates. “It’s how people perceive you,” he said.

Going through career fairs is “like speed dating,” he said, with the questions centered around how well do you work in a team atmosphere, what is your major strength, problem-solving skills. But that is how he found the Macy’s internship.

When someone asked him about starting his own business, Writt said he’s decided that becoming a business owner develops organically. “You have to fall in love with the idea,” he said. “And there has to be a need or market.”

Starting a business so you can be your own boss doesn’t mean the idea or concept is needed. He walked away from one potential venture because the numbers just didn’t support it. His friend went ahead and invested thousands of dollars in developing the mobile app, but it has never taken off “because there just isn’t a need for it.”

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