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Building a business with skyward potential

Skyler Ral­ston, BA’08, wasn’t sure she could have launched a thriving media com­pany in a city like Boston or Miami — but she did just that in Panama City.

After working in adver­tising in Miami fol­lowing grad­u­a­tion from Northeastern’s inter­na­tional busi­ness pro­gram, Ral­ston set­tled in Panama, where her par­ents had moved to retire. She started selling adver­tising for a tourist guide­book and an Eng­lish news­paper and then cre­ated her own mar­keting firm called Sky Mar­keting to expand her reach into fields such as web mar­keting and taxi-​​top advertising.

“I think I did it back­wards: I started with a job at the news­paper and the guide­book, and those pre­sented me with more oppor­tu­ni­ties,” Ral­ston said. “I was able to start my own com­pany and do a lot more than I’d be able to do if I was just working one job.”

A year after founding Sky Mar­keting, Ral­ston expanded her staff by hiring North­eastern inter­na­tional affairs major Jahangir Sharif as the venture’s first co-​​op employee. Sharif will work pri­marily for another one of Ralston’s ven­tures called YEP (Young Expats in Panama), which orga­nizes events and activ­i­ties for non-​​Panamanians living and working out­side their home countries.

“I’m going to throw him right into plan­ning events,” Ral­ston said. “YEP is a great way to learn mar­keting, because it’s a way to con­nect busi­nesses with this growing demo­graphic in Panama City.”

Moving to Panama City was not an entirely new expe­ri­ence for Ral­ston. After high school, for example, she vol­un­teered in Chile and Costa Rica, where she learned how to speak fluent Spanish. At North­eastern, she spent a year in Madrid, taking classes and working on co-​​op for DaimlerChrysler.

But Ral­ston soon real­ized that she would much rather build her own busi­ness than work for a large firm. She saw her parent’s new home­town of Panama City, less than a three-​​hour flight from her job in Miami, as the per­fect place to build some­thing that she could call her own.

“I needed to find some­thing that would let me keep an entre­pre­neurial mindset, that would let me build some­thing for myself,” Ral­ston said. “Moving to Panama was the right time and place to do that.”

– by Matt Collette

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