Smriti Barla

Smriti Barla defied expectations as a Tippie student—founding three startups, helping launch a business in Africa, and even interning for the FBI—all before graduation.



Hard to beat for defying expectations

When students come to Tippie, they can expect to graduate with a foundation in business fundamentals and plenty of real-world experience.

But founding several startups of your own as an undergrad? Helping launch a business in Africa? Interning in Washington DC for the FBI? Yep, that’s possible too. And Smriti Barla proved it.

First visit to first business

From her first campus visit, Smriti knew that Tippie would give her a place to spread her wings.

"At Tippie they encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone and pursue a dual degree when no other school did."

She also felt a warm sense of welcome as she returned for campus visits in both her junior and senior year of high school.

“Everyone I met at Tippie was so friendly, the faculty were so ready to help and answer questions, and my admissions counselors went out of their way to make me feel right at home.”

Once settled on campus, Smriti doubled down on a technical education by pursuing degrees in both Business Analytics & Information Systems and Computer Science. She also founded her first business, Under the Bed Boutique, as a first-year student.

“It started as a small thing I was running out of my dorm room, literally shipping clothes out of boxes I stored under my bed,” she laughs. “Then it just got bigger and bigger. Four years later, I’m on the Amazon marketplace—which is huge.”

Designing her life

Once Amazon took the pressure off fulfilling her own orders, Smriti didn’t wait long to embark on her next venture.

Inspired by her love of gifting family and friends personalized gifts, Smriti wondered, “Why can’t I just make these kinds of things myself?” So she invested in a heat press and Cricut machine, and began producing her own custom designs. She set up shop on Etsy and soon had a thriving store—with branding all her own.

“I did the graphics, brand name, and color scheme for SmritiDesigns myself,” she explains. “Retail wasn’t something I originally planned to get into, but it’s something where I’ve taken an opportunity and ran with it.”

Smriti credits the hands-on learning opportunities at Tippie for giving her the confidence to dive into her own projects.

“Every class was both theory and application,” she says, “and everything I’ve learned I’ve applied to my work.”

Smriti Barla
"The #1 thing I like about Tippie is that they really stress hands-on experience. Every class had both theory and application. Everything I’ve learned I’ve applied to my work."

Beyond her own businesses, Smriti also tested her skills in the real world via her capstone course. Her semester-long team-based project helped a startup in Zimbabwe called Africa Live Network TV get their web platform off the ground. Smriti and her team collaborated virtually with the company’s founders to build a new a website and set them up on social media platforms.

“A lot of my experience has been in a non-tech environment, so I had a little bit of imposter syndrome,” she explains. “Now they’ve launched a growing business, which really built my confidence.”

A secure future

Another great confidence boost were Smriti’s internships—especially her work as a Business Analyst Intern with the FBI in Washington, D.C. She spent a summer at headquarters and was able to keep her security clearance by transferring to part-time work with the resident agency office in Iowa.

“They valued me so much that they ended up keeping me through the school year, and then recommended me to a private tech startup,” she says.

Ultimately her internship path led to Seattle—and a job as Technical Lead Development Representative with Amazon Web Services.

“I sit on the telecommunications team and help companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T onboard their projects and data to the AWS cloud,” she explains.

This role will translate to a full-time position post-graduation, and she’ll also stay busy with her third startup, a South Asian apparel company. Smriti and her partner created Modern Chaat as a platform for South Asian artists to collaborate and showcase their designs on custom apparel. By creating online ad and traffic campaigns to promote the business, Smriti is excited to finally put her business degree to work.

“My business analytics skills will help me get a really clear picture of what our demand looks like, what our projection looks like, and help us make big investment decisions,” she says. “The analytics will come into play once we have online orders and traffic data to look at.”

Wherever the future takes her, Smriti knows that Tippie is there to support her every step of the way.

“Tippie 100% takes care of their students and goes above and beyond to help them succeed,” she says.