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May 28, 2020

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Introducing The Carriage House: Brandcenter’s First Student-run Creative Co-op

This spring, as the country began grappling with unemployment and internship programs were cancelled, a group of rising second years at the VCU Brandcenter shifted gears to create their own Plan B for the summer. Within two months of virtual collaboration, The Carriage House was born: Brandcenter’s first student-run creative co-op and an alternative to the summer internships that had been cut.

Brandcenter students typically intern at agencies and brands across the country in the summer before their second year. While some Brandcenter students are still participating in virtual internships this summer, the COVID-19 crisis cancelled most internship opportunities, leaving students with limited options for real-world experience.

“When we left for spring break, we expected to return to classes rejuvenated and ready to tackle the end of the semester,” said Shannon Gill (CW, 2021). “We did not know the majority of us would see our internship and job offers withdrawn due to COVID-19.”

The Carriage House — named for the Brandcenter building's original use, the carriage house for The Jefferson Hotel — is a full-service creative co-op composed of 50 Brandcenter students and recent grads. Capabilities include campaign and marketing collateral, creative strategy, website design, brand positioning and strategy, social media, SEO/SEM strategy, public relations, brand identity, and logo design. All work is currently pro bono; if a client wishes to make a payment of any amount, they are encouraged to donate to the Brandcenter student scholarships.

The co-op currently has 11 clients made up of local businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs. Industries include textiles, art galleries and handling, cosmetics, landscaping, food and hospitality, genealogy, and life coaching. Throughout the summer months, The Carriage House will work in teams to put the creative problem solving skills they've been learning at Brandcenter into practice for their range of clients.

Leading The Carriage House are six Executive Board members from all Brandcenter concentrations: Dinma Onyekwere (CBM), Kim Burgess (CBM), Alexandra Daniel (ST), Chrissy Boals (AD), Sophie Whitfield (XD), and Shannon Gill (CW). The co-op also established two creative partnerships: Art 180, a local Richmond nonprofit that provides art programming to underprivileged youth, and GreenWave, an NGO that focuses on sustainability in aquaculture/ocean farming. The Carriage House will officially begin work on Monday, June 1.

Learn more about The Carriage House on their website, and follow their journey throughout the summer on social: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

The Carriage House is currently looking for alumni and industry mentors to help guide and inspire the team throughout the summer. If interested, email The Carriage House at or fill out this form.