Entering her senior year at UConn, alumna Brianna Regine Walston ’17 (CLAS), had a great career option.
She was in the midst of completing a very successful public relations internship in New York City, and the company was eager to offer Walston a permanent job after graduation.
Then came the epiphany.
She woke up one morning with an unshakeable determination that she should use her talents to create her own strategic communications firm. Even before she crossed the stage at graduation, Walston had created Brianna Regine Visionary Consulting LLC (also known as BRVC).
“I felt like I was called to do this. I felt it in the pit of my stomach,’’ she says. “I felt I could run a communications company in which humans, not dollar signs, were at the center of every interaction.’’
She started BRVC with only two clients. Six years later, Walston’s company is thriving, and she was selected as the 2023 Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the state of Connecticut by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Among her accomplishments is a year-long campaign, now underway, to highlight and support 50 Black- and woman-owned businesses, one from each state. Those entrepreneurs represent the fastest-growing demographic of innovators.
Supportive Parents Gave Her Confidence
BRVC, based in Bridgeport, specializes in brand development, social and digital strategy, public relations, and operations management. The company’s work focuses on organizations that meet the needs of underserved communities, whether because of age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. Many of their clients are in entertainment, non-profit, startup, lifestyle, and government industries.
“Working with brands that positively impact underrepresented groups is important because it is a way to create visibility and opportunities where it barely exists,’’ she says. “Comparatively, folks who are constantly represented—whether in the media, in innovative advancements, or in government bodies—typically have better access to resources and their stories are commonly told.’’
“Brands that serve individuals who don’t have as much representation, and provide solutions to their problems, in the form of products or services, hold an important role in changing the playing field,’’ Walston says. “They are trying to make the whole system more diverse and equitable, and we at BRVC have the same mission.’’
While resolute in her vision, Walston says it isn’t always easy.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge, particularly because I want to help as many people as possible, but I also need to make economic decisions for the company; and I try not to burn out,’’ she says. “Plus, as you scale, it is important to monitor how your target audience responds to the evolution of your products and services. And sometimes that learning curve can delay revenue, which can create pressure to compromise and make you consider working with brands that don’t align with your mission. Thankfully, we stayed true to our values and found clients that are a perfect match.’’
Walston, who majored in Communication, credits her parents with giving her the confidence that she needed to forge her own path.
As a child, Walston was a keen observer, but she was very shy. When she enrolled in Greenwich Academy, she recognized that she needed to push herself to achieve her goals. She learned to speak up and use her voice.
“I have very supportive parents,’’ she says. “I’m the first born and the first girl. Out of all my siblings I was told ‘education, education, education,’ most often,’’ she says. “When I wanted to go off the linear path and start my own company, they were supportive.’’
She describes her quest to start her business as “Greenwich Academy part two.’’
“I knew if I wanted to be successful, I would have to put myself out there. I had to meet people. I have to tell my story. I can’t be shy,’’ she says.
‘What You Offer to the World Matters’
Now that her company is well established, Walston is tasked with growing it even more.
“The hardest challenge for me today is the ‘What now?’ How do I uplevel all over again? It’s like beginning anew, but with more structure,’’ she says. “One of the ongoing challenges when making decisions is being true to yourself. You have to trust your gut and do right by people. You may question if your values hold weight. I want people to feel that human connection and know that I’m in their corner, especially people who are using their businesses to help the under-represented. This is who I am and what I stand for.’’
Her goal is to make BRVC a multi-million-dollar agency. “I know it is going to happen because I’m doing what I need to do,’’ she says.
Although she is thrilled at the state and national recognition that she is receiving as an entrepreneur, Walston is quick to credit her team for their work. All her staff is women-identifying and a mixture of cultures including African-American, Hispanic, Caribbean, and French.
“It is a blessing to have people believe in what I’ve built,’’ she says. “I’m always thinking about my teammates and what we have collectively created.’’
As a young business owner, she is often asked for advice from students and others who are just starting out.
“What I say to young people is the fact that you’re thinking about your future, that alone gives you a clue to where your mindset is and that you’re wanting to play an active part in what your future looks like. It puts you far ahead of those not thinking like that. If you follow your inclination, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be,’’ she says.
All entrepreneurs have trepidation, she says. The ones who succeed push it aside.
“Either become an entrepreneur or you’ll always wonder what would have happened if you did,’’ she says. “Progress is better than being at the starting line. Maybe you’re holding back because you’re scared, insecure or are worried about what people will think of you. Face it head-on. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Know who you are, feel empowered, and know that what you offer to the world matters.’’