On Course: FSU PC students ‘Sunny Girl,’ ‘Out Here Apparel’ owner prepare for life together

Jan Waddy

“Being at FSU Panama City has given me opportunities.” — Olivia Floyd

Undergraduate Degree: ’23, B.S. in Commercial Entrepreneurship

Florida State University Panama City commercial entrepreneurship student Olivia Floyd, ’23, and business administration student Shad Johnson, ’23, are running their businesses while planning their October wedding.

Chipley native Olivia, aka “Sunny Girl,” is a natural with her beach-inspired jewelry business. Shad’s Out Here Apparel hat company complements his family’s sporting goods and convenience store in Blountstown, which he is preparing to run one day. 

“As life gets busier, it gets harder,” Olivia said. “I’m deep in wedding planning, running a business and being a nanny twice a week. I also work at a coffee shop in Panama City Beach doing marketing and events.”

Olivia is one of several FSU PC students who helped develop Techspresso, a Panama City Beach coffee shop scheduled to open Aug. 22. The business idea was born out of an entrepreneurship class project in Fall 2021, taught by FSU PC professor Jamiel Vadell, who decided to fund the project.

Olivia and Shad have applied skills developed in their undergraduate programs to promote each other’s own entrepreneurial dreams, setting up vendor booths together at area farmer’s markets. The couple’s biggest promotion yet came in June 2022, when they sold their products over four days at Gulf Coast Jam in Panama City Beach.

“I wore my fingers to death preparing for that event, making hundreds of pieces of jewelry,” said Olivia, who passed out over 1,000 business cards. “My prices don’t go over $30, and I made nearly $2,000 a day.”

Sunny Girl features bracelets and necklaces, all hand strung with beads and pearls that have been purchased locally in downtown Panama City and internationally.

“I use a lot of high-quality pearls and beads you can wear in the water that won’t hurt your skin,” said Olivia, who accepts custom orders. “When we have a market coming up, I have a lot of inventory. My rings come flat, and I hand stamp them with a hammer and make the design color with a jewelry making machine.”

Olivia’s began her business in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to “cure boredom,” posting her jewelry bead creations on Snapchat.

“Eventually, I had friends request the jewelry,” Olivia said. “I decided to make an Instagram account and called it ‘Sunny Girl,’ because my mom would always call me ‘sunny girl’ when I would get back from the beach.”

Her fiance’ grew up hunting and freshwater fishing in Blountstown, later selling hunting and fishing gear at his family’s business. Inspired by a hunting convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Shad began designing his own hunting and fishing hats. He launched Out Here Apparel in April 2021, but he credits Olivia with giving him the motivation and guidance to bring Out Here Apparel to life. 

“Olivia was able to help me design a website and make the business official,” said Shad, who already had experience with buying wholesale and selling retail. “I had thought about starting the hat business, but when I met her, the idea was not so scary anymore.”

Journey to FSU PC

After graduating from Chipley High School in May 2020, Olivia enrolled at Auburn University in Fall 2020 with plans to major in marketing. But something had happened over the summer — she met Shad.

“I had moved to Auburn but was dying to go home to see my boyfriend and make jewelry,” said Olivia, who admitted she just didn’t have the space to continue making jewelry in her dorm room.

For her sophomore year, Olivia was able to convince her parents to let her transfer to Chipola College in Marianna, where Shad was attending college after returning from a mission trip with his church. The couple earned their associate’s degrees and then transferred to FSU Panama City.

“The scene in Tallahassee didn’t really fit what I wanted,” Shad said. “I really enjoyed the atmosphere of a small campus and wanted to have relationships with the professors like I had at Chipola.” 

Olivia’s decision to come to FSU Panama City initially was “driven by love,” but then she started “looking forward to small classes and the casual campus — right up my alley!”

Olivia is at “home” in the Florida Panhandle, where Panama City Beach has been a longtime family destination. But it was more than FSU Panama City’s location, size and campus culture.

“When I saw FSU Panama City had entrepreneurship, I started getting so excited,” said Olivia, whose excitement was met with a warm welcome. “Entrepreneurship professor Brian Baber reached out to me personally and said we would love to have you. He has helped me devote strategies to my business and challenged me to do something different.”

During Women’s Entrepreneurship Week in October 2021, the university hosted panelists including Elizabeth Waring, president of Johnson & Johnson Inc. that operates its Busy Bee conglomerate.

“I knew the necklaces would sell well in Busy Bee,” Olivia said. “Professor Baber had always taught us to be confident in the business and get a name out. I talked to her about wholesale and said I would love to have the brand in her store.”

Olivia developed a lookbook for her first wholesale order with Waring, who purchased Sunny Girl Brand necklaces and keychain letters for the Panama City Beach Busy Bee location.

Through her coursework, Olivia has learned best practices for creating product descriptions, calculating costs for products and shipping and designing her own website, https://shopsunnygirl.com, which launched in February 2022.

“It’s been super successful, but I’ve had a lot of learning curves on how to launch new products, what draws customers in and what makes them leave,” Olivia said. “Being at FSU Panama City has given me opportunities.”