Could you imagine starting your own business after college or around the college you attended? That’s just what Shepherd alumni Sandy Sponaugle, did who started her own business in Shepherdstown and still has strong ties with the university.
Originally from Great Falls, Virginia, Sponaugle came to Shepherd to have a fresh start and discover who she was. It took her about four and half years to graduate from Shepherd and part of that was she double majored in business and economics. Sponaugle lived on campus for four of her four and a half years and three of those years were spent in Shaw Hall, where she was the president of the Living Learning Service Center. She was also very involved with the business fraternity on campus Delta Sigma Pie.
“I truly loved everything about Shepherd, it was big enough to have opportunities but small enough to feel like a big family,” she said. “I wanted a fresh start and Shepherd gave me that.”
During her time at Shepherd she became friends with fellow student Rachael Meads, who is now director of student activities and leadership fraternity and sorority life, and assistant director of student engagement. Meads was a couple of years older than Sponaugle.
“I was Sandy’s hall director when she was a freshman in Shaw Hall,” Meads said. Noting that Sponaugle was full of energy and excitement. “I knew Sandy would start her own business, based on how she ran meetings and was so involved with everything, I knew it. If I could say a super power that Sandy has its making relationships that’s what she’s really good at.”
After Sponaugle graduated from Shepherd she did economic development for Jefferson County and later went to Frederick County to do the same thing. The idea of starting her own business came about when she and her friend that she graduated with were talking about it. Sponaugle was strong in marketing and her friend was strong in public relations, and they took the first steps toward Platinum PR. After about a year of talking about it her friend backed out due to pregnancy but Sponaugle was ready to make the leap and start her business in 2002.
“My husband was working for the West Virginia police department so we had to stay in the state plus we had already started building a home here,” Sponaugle said. She started the business dealing with all types of organizations to get some experience until she found that economic development worked best for her.
Sponaugle used her previous experience in economic development to help propel the business.
“The size of Platinum is very boutique but we’re very hands on and that helps with interns that I bring in from Shepherd,” she said.
Sponaugle was the former president of the Alumni Association at Shepherd and also helped plan the yearly Shepherd University Student Leadership Conference.
Meads who still keeps in contact with Sponaugle appreciates that she is still so involved “I think having someone like Sandy be so involved in the university is exactly what we need.,” Meads said. “What I mean is having alumni give back so much to the university and the community is awesome. Most alumni just graduate and never comeback.”
Meads also welcomes that Sponaugle gives Shepherd students a chance to experience the real world by “giving students the chance to show what they can do in the real world can go one of two ways. Either show that the student is ready for the real world or lets them see where they can improve. The fact that she does this lets those students build relationships and experience what they might want to do for the rest of their life early on.”
Platinum PR wasn’t the first choice to be the next part of Sponagules life.
“I didn’t think after I graduated I would start my own business that sounded hard back then. Stating Platinum was hard at first yes but I’m not one to complain,” Sponaugle said. “The fact that the realm of public relations keeps changing keeps me interested. That’s why Platinum is a constant in my life. Public relations is how businesses market themselves and things like social media are a part of the companies brand and how they market themselves. In the holistic picture public relations covers a lot of areas.”
Sponaugle does have some plans to do after Platinum “I do have other hobbies besides public relations. I like traveling with my daughter, ice skating, listening to audio books, and I’m kind of addicted to podcasts.”