MAPPING OUT A PLAN

MAPPING OUT A PLAN

CHAMPAIGN — Blayke Hranicka is a planner. The Illinois senior has been mapping out her life after college — after volleyball — since she arrived at Illinois in 2016 for her sophomore year after transferring from North Carolina State.

That plan, though, only recently started to take real shape. An advertising class at Illinois was the jumping-off point. Her summer marketing internship at Miramar Brands Group in Los Angeles opened her eyes to even more possibilities.

“I really decided I loved the creative side of marketing just last year,” Hranicka said. “I actually took an advertising class and was like, ‘Oh, this is really cool. Business can be very fun and creative as well.’ That was kind of my turning point.”

Hranicka’s internship in California, where she worked with both King of the Beach and Queen of the Beach brands, sparked another change. Marketing isn’t all she wants in her future career.

“I’m getting a bigger picture,” she said. “I want to eventually own my own company one day, so I’m hoping to get different experiences in the finance field, sales field and accounting field and just put all of those things together so my company can be successful.”

As for what that future business might be? Well, that’s still in the planning stage.

“Oh my gosh, no idea,” she said with a laugh. “No idea yet, but I have a huge passion for fashion and I love the arts. I’m hoping to incorporate something like that. I think it’s always something that has interested me, but I really started honing in on it the last couple years. I can do both. I can be an athlete and also love designers and also love art and put both those things together.”

Hranicka got to meld her two interests in her summer internship. A friend of her father connected her with Stephen Ascher. The Miramar Brands Group chairman, CEO and founder also founded Sideout Beachwear before incorporating both King of the Beach and Queen of the Beach brands.

“He started Sideout out of his frat house when he was 20,” Hranicka said about Ascher. “I just wanted to talk to him and pick his brain. He was like, ‘Just come out here for the summer and we’ll show you what we’re all about.’ It was really great hands on experience.”

Hranicka didn’t have any expectations heading into her internship. After playing volleyball her entire life, she said it was “cool to see how everybody else operates.” Her work with King of the Beach and Queen of the Beach centered on extending the brands outside of beach volleyball.

“I was working on making this beach volleyball brand more of a lifestyle brand,” Hranicka said. “Like, you can wear this to any workout. Anybody, even if you’re not an athlete, can wear this to the beach. It was really exciting getting to go down to the beach and promote the different products, and I actually designed some new things for them. We had different T-shirt lines, sweatshirts, leggings and accessories.”

The possibilities of where Hranicka can take her future business career intrigues her the most.

“Business is really exciting because there are really no limits,” she said. “You can really do anything that you want. You can turn anything into a business.

“I go to bed thinking about it every single night. I love it. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, but I can’t wait to put down in concrete what I’m doing and really just get it all figured out — soon.”

Soon is coming. Hranicka is in her final season at Illinois.

The Illini middle blocker — perhaps just in roster designation only at this point — played opposite in the opening weekend of the season. Illinois coach Chris Tamas was ready to play the 6-foot Denver native at outside hitter in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge had Beth Prince not been cleared.

“All I can ask for is that they come in and work hard, and that they’re willing to accept whatever role we put them in,” Tamas said. “She’s always got a smile on her face, and she always works hard and gets after it. She goes where we need her to go, and she does great in every position we put her in.”

Hranicka is enjoying training and playing at multiple positions as Illinois  (6-0) enters its third tournament of the season with an 8:30 a.m. match today against Bowling Green in the Cleveland State Invitational. The 11th-ranked Illini also play the host Vikings at 6 p.m. today and UC Irvine at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“Learning outside and opposite has helped keep me on my toes and very engaged during practice,” she said. “It’s kind of more of a surprise every day. I really love the challenge of it all, and I’m excited to see what will happen the rest of this season.”

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