Student Spotlight: Lyvia Ray

Lyvia is a versatile and ambitious student studying at the University of New York in Prague, where she pursues her passion for Psychology. Her adventurous spirit has led her from her home in the United States to multiple countries across the globe, equipping her with rich and varied experiences that have shaped her personal and professional growth.

With a foundation in film and photography, Lyvia has a deep understanding of storytelling, a skill she actively employs as the Chief Marketing Officer for, a startup focusing on eco-friendly paper made from recycled limestone. Her effective leadership and profound understanding of consumer behavior have helped propel the company to significant success in a short period.

Recently accepted into the Harvard Incubator and Innovation Labs, Lyvia continues to strive for excellence, demonstrating her determination to drive sustainable business growth. Her journey showcases her tenacity, adaptability, and her desire to make a positive impact in the world.

During our conversation, Lyvia shared candid insights into her journey, her enriching experiences at UNYP, and her vision for the future. Here is what she had to say…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the program you are studying, how you got to UNYP, and how you chose your field?

My name is Lyvia. I am from the United States, and I chose to study abroad in Prague for various reasons. First, I love to travel and I always knew I wanted to spend time living in Europe. My parents’ work moved us around a lot when I was younger, so I had the opportunity to study abroad in Beijing and Singapore. When I finished high school, I didn’t feel tied to studying in the States. My plan was to move to Prague, learn Czech, and study at one of the oldest film schools in the world, FAMU.

Prior to moving to Prague, I worked in a fishing tackle factory for six months in Iowa, where I lived with my grandparents. I used the money I earned over those 6 months to buy my first video camera and a plane ticket to Prague. I spent the next year teaching English as a freelancer, working as a photographer, attending a summer program at FAMU, and learning Czech at Charles University.

During my second year in Prague, I realized I wanted to pursue another deep passion of mine, Psychology. After a deep dive into psychology programs in Europe, I decided UNYP was the best fit for me. I was honored to be accepted, and I spent the summer prior to my freshman year studying online intro psychology classes because it felt so right.

Can you share some of your favorite UNYP classes, or projects that you have worked on here?

I have had such an incredible experience at UNYP that this is a difficult question to answer! I would say my top favorite classes were: Comparative Psychology with Professor Edel Sanders, Psychology of Adolescence with Professor Talar Agopian, Sex and Gender in Global Perspective by Professor Tara Tran, Mind, Body, & Consciousness with Professor Bethany Butzer, and Trauma Narratives by Professor Lona Moutafidou.

In terms of projects, I had a great experience writing a research proposal entitled: ‘Does Dysfunctional Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis Cause Depression’ in Academic Writing with Professor Ashley Melucci.

Congratulations on being accepted into the Harvard Incubator and Innovation Labs! Can you share the overview of the application process, and what you think helped your startup stand out from the rest?

Thank you so much. The Harvard Incubator application process consisted of creating a pitch deck that provided details regarding the founding team, the problem, the solution, our competitors, and the total addressable market and compound annual growth rate

(CAGR) of our target market. I believe what helped us stand out the most was our team’s variety of skills (marketing, machine learning, finance, and software engineering) and our disciplined approach to entrepreneurship.

How did you get involved with, and what inspired the company’s focus on eco-friendly paper made from recycled limestone? I started out helping the original founders of Etched Stone Paper (Kane, Keiv, and Rhys) shortly after the company was founded by taking photographs for the website, filming reels, and managing social media platforms. After a couple of weeks, I joined the team officially as head of B2C (business to consumer) marketing and became a cofounder three months later as the CMO.

After working 20 years in the paper business, Rhys Holding began actively searching for more eco-friendly alternatives to traditional paper with the help of Keiv and Kane. Shortly after, they discovered something absolutely crazy: paper made from construction waste that feels basically the same as normal paper, only smoother. The team immediately ordered some samples from Taiwan and realized the potential the paper had to reduce global deforestation and a significant portion of the population’s carbon footprint.

What role do you play as the CMO at, and what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful Chief Marketing Officer? Are there any skills or knowledge that you got from UNYP that was particularly helpful in your position?

I believe my previous experience in cinematography and photography, in combination with the psychology and writing knowledge I learned at UNYP, gave me the skills I need to lead the marketing efforts of Etched Stone Paper. Due to my passion for storytelling and fascination with human behavior, I have a solid understanding of how to provide value to our customers and build a creative and loyal community that supports one another. My efforts have helped lead Etched to six-figure revenues within eight months.

I believe the most important skills of a CMO are adaptability, leadership, and attentive listening. It helps to understand that the customer’s voice drives every B2C company and in order to build a successful brand, companies must provide real value to their customers.

Studying Psychology at UNYP has equipped me with the skills to understand consumer behavior, and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. I also learned the impact cultural differences have on purchasing decisions, and how to manage teams effectively. Ultimately, my psychology background helps me create emotionally evocative messages that create a powerful brand image in the eyes of the consumers while connecting with them on a personal level.

What are some of the biggest challenges that has faced so far, and how has the company overcome them?

The biggest challenge we have had at Etched Stone Paper so far has been learning how to run a company completely online with a team of seven individuals living in four different countries (Kane in Beijing, Rhys in Singapore, Saul and Chris in Boston, and Lyvia, Keiv, and Esther in Prague) across three different time zones.

Although it is still challenging at times, we have overcome this hurdle by maintaining regular one-to-one hangout sessions in order to build deeper relationships with one another, prioritize effective communication in order to avoid misunderstandings, and remaining completely transparent and supportive of one another (it’s not too different from a long-distance relationship!) We plan to move most of the team to Boston in May to be in the same location, so as to make the most of the Harvard Innovation Incubator experience and improve our team chemistry. How do you see evolving and growing in the future, and what are your long-term goals for the company? We see Etched Stone Paper becoming the paper of choice for artists due to its eco-friendly features and the fact that it does not buckle when in contact with water. It’s bleed-proof, tear-resistant, and extremely durable.

We plan to collaborate with artists and influencers in order to grow our community exponentially through social proof, repeated exposure, and providing consistent value to our customers through offering kind and helpful customer support and engaging content. In regard to B2B (business to business), we intend to continue selling to major universities, such as the sale we recently made at Harvard Innovation Labs for I-Lab alumni.

What advice would you give to other aspiring students looking to start a sustainable business or apply to a prestigious incubator program like Harvard’s?

I strongly recommend going for it. Even if our startup doesn’t take off, I have grown an incredible amount and learned tons during the past year and a half working at Etched Stone Paper. I have learned invaluable lessons about team dynamics, marketing, business, and myself. I also strongly suggest starting before you are ready. Test your ideas early, and try not to wait for perfection. The sooner you get your idea out, the sooner you will learn what potential changes or pivots you need to make to succeed.

In regards to applying to incubator programs, I strongly suggest applying to any and all programs. You will learn an insane amount just through the process of applying by having to ask yourself hard questions about your business, and you will learn even more through receiving feedback from program advisors and venture capitalists. Finally, I recommend absorbing all of the free great material out there from companies such as Sequoia, Harvard Business Review, and Y Combinator and regularly reading books written by successful entrepreneurs, such as Bill Aulet.

How do you think being part of the Harvard Incubator and Innovation Labs will impact’s success, and what are you most looking forward to about the experience?

I am most looking forward to having access to a place to physically work together as a team, also access to a film studio, helpful lawyers, lectures, and events. Hopefully, we can make substantive connections with venture capitalists and advisors to expand our knowledge, drive our business growth, and secure funding. I am especially looking forward to meeting and connecting with other entrepreneurs and advisors in the program.

Finally, what advice would you give to incoming students who are just starting their academic journey here at UNYP?

Four things:

  1. Establish healthy habits early on and set boundaries for yourself. If you prioritize your health, you will be better equipped for all the other things you want to do. It’s incredibly challenging to find a balance between social, work, university, and health, but you can manage it, and the benefits will pay off in so many ways.
  2. Be open to new connections and friendships. Ask people out for coffee or drinks, because one of the best perks of attending UNYP is the international community. Make the most of it: build life-long connections, learn different cultural perspectives, and build your personal network.
  3. Engage in class seminars. UNYP’s small classrooms give everyone a chance to speak and interact during the class lectures. Interacting will help you build more meaningful associations with the material, and strengthen your public speaking skills.
  4. Soak up as much as you can while you can (like a crazy absorbent sponge). UNYP provides a unique opportunity to learn from fantastic professors from all over the world, collaborate and party with people with various backgrounds, and travel to different countries easily.

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