Lessons learned at Wallace State helped build business
This is one in a series of stories celebrating Community College Month during April.
Hanceville, AL — In the half-dozen years since he graduated from Wallace State with a degree in business administration and transferred to the University of Alabama, Riley Voce has become a successful business owner. He and his business partner will soon have 19 locations of Blenz Bowls, smoothie bowl cafes, located on 13 college campuses. He credits a lot of his success with the networking skills he learned at WSCC and honed at UA.
“That was the biggest take-away from college for me, was just learning to network and talk to people,” said Voce, who is a graduate of West Point High School.
Like many college freshmen, Voce said he didn’t have a concrete idea of what he wanted to do, and his dream job felt a little out of reach.
“My real dream was to move to South Carolina and work on a boat and eventually work my way up to eventually selling yachts on the Outer Banks,” Voce said with a laugh.
Voce came to Wallace State on a full Presidential Scholarship and started taking classes toward his Business Administration degree. He became involved in the college’s Rotaract club, where he met business instructor Terri McGriff Waldrop.
“She was a great role model in networking and being kind to people,” Voce said, adding he benefitted from that when he transferred to the University of Alabama.
“There, you knew you were kind of a small fish in a big pond,” he said. “If you really wanted to make the most of your time, it was really about networking.”
While at UA, Voce said he tried his hand at a few businesses, but nothing proved successful until he and his friend Zac Rogers went to Miami for one week and were introduced to smoothie bowls. These are usually created with frozen fruits, including acai berry, and milk with toppings such as granola, fresh fruit, chia seeds, nuts, honey and more.
Joking about opening a restaurant based on smoothie bowls turned into serious talks and those turned into developing a business plan, financial analysis, a name, branding ideas and then the purchase of a trailer from which to run the business on the campus of the University of Alabama.
They now have a mixture of store fronts and food trucks on several college campuses, with more scheduled to open by the business’s fifth anniversary in August.
“We’ll have 19 locations at colleges like Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss, South Florida, just all kind of cool schools,” Voce said.
They employ mostly college students and offer internships as well, so they can learn how a business operates.
Voce also has a hand in real estate, offering rental property in Tuscaloosa. Both businesses, he said, have benefitted from his ability to network.
“It’s huge, especially if you want to scale your business,” he said of networking. “A ton of our growth is done by growing personal networks. It’s testament to being kind to people, caring about people. That's how you grow your network every day.”
Voce said he’s happy with his decision to come to Wallace State.
“Wallace State was a good stepping-stone for me as I wasn’t really sure of a career,” he said. “I really didn’t know what or where I wanted to go during or after Wallace, but I met great people who believed in me and gave me confidence to go after big ideas.”
Those ideas have paid off with two successful businesses and new dreams.
“We’re just really passionate about Blenz Bowls and want to continue to grow it and make it a household name at some point,” Voce said.
Registration for summer and fall semesters in underway. Summer 2023 classes begin May 24. Fall 2023 classes begin Aug. 18. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu, call 256.352.8000 or come by Lion Central in the lobby of the James C. Bailey Center Monday-Wednesday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or Friday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Kristen Holmes
- Vice President for Students and Chief Marketing Officer
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