Since graduating from Meredith College, Jamye Hickman, ’01, has made a name for herself, gaining recognition from celebrities such as Oprah and Rachael Ray. Hickman, who won the 2015 Distinguished Alumna Award from the Department of Psychology, is a well-known entrepreneur.
Hickman grew up in Bolivia, N.C., and graduated from Meredith in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology before enrolling in Georgia Tech, where she earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in engineering psychology.
When she was 25 years old, Hickman founded PupCentric, a company that manufactured pet products. The E.B.D. (Everything but the Dog) Carry-all, which she created and designed, was featured in an issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray as a favorite accessory of Ray. In October 2008, Hickman appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show as a featured guest, where she spoke about the success of the E.B.D. Carry-all and how being a mom to her Shi-Tzu, Zoe-Joe, encouraged her start. Unfortunately, Zoe-Joe has since passed away.
“When I think back on who I was at 24 years old, sewing, using the skills my mama taught me as a child, I honestly had no limits,” said Hickman. “I never thought ‘this won’t work’ or ‘no one will ever buy this’. I remember thinking ‘I need this, so I can’t be the only one.’”
After spending several years working as a freelance user experience (UX) consultant and project manager and a tenure-track professor at Southern Polytechnic State University, Hickman decided that she wanted to run her own business as she had when she was 25. About a year ago, she launched Avant Solutions, a small government contracting firm.
“It is a small women-owned firm specializing in project management, instructional design, and quantifying and optimizing the user experience,” said Hickman. “I named my company after my grandfather and the word avant-garde. Everything I do is rooted in the core of who I am as a person and it has to be innovative and creative.”
As far as the future for Hickman, she feels that she is being thrust into a new chapter after her life took an unanticipated turn when her parents were both recently diagnosed with age-related cognitive disorders. It has revitalized her doctoral research on cognitive aging and cognitive decline, which she plans to actively pursue with her current business.
“I’ve started a new aging research division of Avant Solutions called Me and My Aging Parents,” said Hickman. “It’s part cognitive research, part commercial solutions, and part humor. We will see how this unfolds.”