UL graduate talks starting a business straight out of college

Class of 2022 graduate Lea Costelloe recently launched her own virtual assistant business, True Collective and Co.

Lea Costelloe launched her virtual assistant business True Collective and Co. within months of graduating from university

By Edana Flynn

23-year-old Lea Costelloe, who graduated from University of Limerick last August, sat down with Limerick Voice to talk about going out on her own and starting a business so soon after college.

“I had been looking for jobs throughout my final year, in the summer, and once I graduated I invested all my time into looking for a job,” says the former Digital Media Design student.

During her job search, the rising cost of living was always in the back of Lea’s mind as she found many local jobs relevant to her degree offered lower salaries, requiring her to relocate to Dublin as a result.

“I just didn’t feel it was the right time to be making a big move for a job,” she says. “There was also no job pushing me enough to want to make that move.”

While researching work-from-home opportunities, Lea came across a virtual assistant company on Instagram that offered support to clients through general administrative services, personal assistance and social media support.

Deciding to take the plunge and start her own company, art-orientated Lea offered additional services in creation, design and website support.

“It seemed like a space where I would be able to do things that I enjoy without having to relocate and bring additional costs on myself. All I really need is a laptop and my skills.”

Lea has taken courses from other virtual assistants and contacted those who have worked in this area since the pandemic.

She officially launched her business True Collective and Co. just three weeks ago, and onboarded her first client within two weeks. Lea believes, “Once you get one person in the door, it’s easier to start motivating yourself to onboard more and more people.”

Asked what sets her apart from other virtual assistants, Lea says that most do not have a specific niche in design. “I’ve put the time into my education. I’ve spent time learning, and that is something that I think sets me apart from others.” She emphasises that her degree gave her a better understanding of websites, graphics, colour and the use of colour.

When deciding on a target demographic for her company, Lea made it her goal to work with small businesses.

“I want to give them the opportunity to get a high-quality standard of work at a rate that they can afford,” she explains. “When we’re starting out, we can’t afford to spend thousands on logos and marketing. That also sets me apart – I’ve designed my own website from scratch.”

She notes that new or rebranding businesses tend to just look for a digital logo, not realising that logos are just one element of a brand; “You also need different graphics for your website and your social media.”

Looking to the future, Lea acknowledges that starting a business is a slow process that won’t take off overnight.

However, she has a positive attitude and willingly takes advice from other working professionals, who have told her, “Give yourself the opportunity to grow naturally. Don’t push it or force it too much – it will happen if you put the work in.”

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