UNG senior Krista Willey and alumna Taylor Merritt earned entrepreneurship awards from the Mike Cottrell College of Business this fall. Contributed photo
DAHLONEGA, GA (12/01/2023)– University of North Georgia (UNG) senior Krista Willey was named Student Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Mike Cottrell College of Business in a ceremony on Oct. 25 in the Cottrell Center for Business, Technology and Innovation at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus.
Taylor Merritt, ’15, was recognized as the Alumna Woman Entrepreneur of the Year. Merritt is CEO of Daddy Tay Fitness, a company she founded in 2022.
Merritt is from Monroe,Georgia.
Willey, who is pursuing a degree in visual arts, was nominated by senior lecturer Dr. Ana Pozzi Harris, who taught her art history course.
Willey created two businesses, KWilley Pottery and Customs by Krista as a sophomore at UNG. She was inspired by the surge of “Vampire Diaries” fans visiting her hometown of Covington, Georgia, also the show’s filming location.
Willey recalled working in UNG’s ceramics studio, when she learned of her achievement on Oct. 20.
“I was so shocked and honored to be nominated,” Willey said.
“I thought for sure it would go to someone in the entrepreneurship program. To me, winning is a reflection of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation wanting to see artists succeed, and I love that.”
Willey said she is excited to encourage her peers to try something new with the hope of similar outcomes.
Set to graduate in the spring, Willey is looking to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts, focusing on her passion for ceramics.
“These women exemplify the creativity, determination and innovativeness that women entrepreneurs bring to the table. Krista and Taylor have not only excelled in their respective fields but also serve as role models, inspiring others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams,” Dr. Mariangela Vecchiarini-Piazza, assistant professor of management, said.
Merritt earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from UNG in the preprofessional pathway of pre-physical therapy. The entrepreneur was also a member of the 2015 UNG national championship softball team. That team was inducted into the UNG Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021. She felt this award was an honor to receive.
“UNG taught me how to work harder, learn, lead, and achieve. UNG changed my life and will live in my heart forever,” Merritt said. “Thank you to the entrepreneurship program and to those who are pursuing your passion with purpose.”
Positioned in the fastest-growing region of the state, the University of North Georgia comprises five campuses united by a single mission focused on academic excellence and academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia. With more than 18,000 students, the University of North Georgia is one of the state’s largest public universities. The university offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to doctoral programs.