Top Business Student Launches Company, Eyes a Second and Teaches Martial Arts

Top Business Student Launches Company, Eyes a Second and Teaches Martial Arts

Top Business Student Launches Company, Eyes a Second and Teaches Martial Arts


It starts with discipline, and Kaitlyn Tran is anything but undisciplined.

Long before she was a top student in Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business, before she bought her first embroidery machine and began selling clothes online, and well before she dreamed of collaborating, with her mother, in a posh coffee and tea shop, an eight-year-old Tran tried her first martial arts lesson.

And, like the embroidered clothes she now sells through her company, Kaitlyn’s Threads, she was hooked.

Today a 3rd-degree black belt in Kang Moo Do, a mixed martial art that incorporates karate, Jujitsu, kickboxing, and other disciplines, Tran trains in and teaches self-defense at least 20 hours a week. That’s in addition to keeping a full-time course schedule, running and marketing her business, and serving as president of Phi Chi Theta, a Rowan chapter of the national business fraternity that she helped found this year.

She serves on the executive board of Rowan’s chapter of the College Entrepreneur’s Organization (the “CEO Club”), is active in the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and entered her final semester with a 3.6 GPA as she completes coursework for her Bachelor of Science in management and a marketing minor.

“Being so involved, putting myself outside my comfort zone, has helped me grow,” said Tran, a commuter student from Mullica Hill who teaches and trains at Tiger Kang Martial Arts in Sewell.

Tran, who began studies at Rowan as a biological sciences major, initially thought she might want a career in dentistry but soon found business a more natural fit.

Amid the lockdown of 2020, Tran bought an embroidery machine and began experimenting with needlepoint styles. Not long after, she was buying patterns, practicing on old clothes from her closet, and trying to start a business.

“I was nervous, worried it would flop,” Tran said. “And sometimes it can be tough. But since then, I’ve sold more than 2,300 pieces.”

Selling through her Instagram account, her garments range in style and color, bearing designs that run from simple embroidered phrases like “Lucky” with a green clover to holiday giftware stitched with “Santa Baby” or “North Pole University.”

“There’s a quality with embroidery that you don’t get with press-on designs,” she said. “The stitch goes through the entire piece so you can wash it a hundred times and it will look the same.”

Though she’s making money with Kaitlyn’s Threads, as well as through teaching martial arts, Tran soon hopes to open a café with her mother.

“Our plan is to focus on desserts with natural fruit and other natural ingredients, as well as really good coffee and teas,” she said. “We’re working on business plans and financial projections and then we’ll start looking for a location, possibly in University City (Philadelphia).”

As for martial arts, Tran said the commitment and goalsetting it embodies that spoke to her as a child still has her hooked.

“The black belt journey is not an easy one,” she said. “You need discipline and a will to keep going but you learn something new every single day. I feel the same way about business.”

Every spring, Rowan University highlights one graduating student from each school and college. Read more stories about this year’s featured graduates