Business has always come naturally for Jennifer Kelly, owner of Image by Kelz and Elevated Image Suites. But it’s not lost on Kelly that her journey, despite its natural progression, has been shaped significantly by her ability to seize opportunities and continuously learn. 

"I’ve done everything on my own. I did all the work on my own. I researched on my own. I don’t have mentors or people around me I can learn from,” Kelly reflected. “You can only get yourself so far on your own. I think that's such a big thing that many people don't realize.”

Kelly’s entrepreneurial spirit was sparked after retiring from the military and entering the beauty industry. In this field, she has spent over a decade honing her craft in permanent makeup and aesthetic services. However, her educational pursuit at Ivy Tech recently put her under the spotlight. Here, amidst peers and seasoned mentors, Kelly refined her business acumen, which led to her winning the 2024 Ivy Tech Indianapolis Ivy Pitch Competition.

“I took a few classes at Ivy Tech before I left for Seattle years ago, so when I found out about the entrepreneurship program, I thought, ‘Why not see what I can learn?’ These are people I can trust; who I can go to for advice. These are knowledgeable people that I can ask questions and get real answers rather than just asking Google,” Kelly laughed. “I think that no matter what level we’re on, we can always level up and elevate ourselves.”


Kelly describes her business, Image by Kelz, as her "passion brand," the foundation of her entrepreneurial journey. Here, she focuses on mentoring upcoming beauty entrepreneurs—or 'beautypreneurs'—guiding them through the complexities of starting and diversifying their income streams. 

“I help beautypreneurs start out, diversify income, and elevate any way they want to, whether it's coaching, add-on services, or mentoring,” Kelly explained.

The idea for Kelly’s second venture, Elevated Image Suites, arose from recognizing a niche need within her community. Her facility offers professional spaces for beautypreneurs and other businesses, combining rental suites with a dynamic environment for networking and professional development. 

"Most of us get into the beauty industry because we want to work for ourselves. But nobody can really go out and get a storefront right away, and if they can, you have to put a lot into it,” Kelly explained. “I was actually looking for a smaller space to open a storefront when I saw this space for where Elevated Image Suites is now, in Fishers, and I thought it was perfect for suite rentals rather than booth rentals.”

Kelly’s innovative approach caters not only to individual professionals but also fosters a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who support each other’s growth. Elevated Image Suites also offers memberships and networking opportunities.

“I just try to gain value from every experience in life, and I think we all have a lot to learn from each other,” Kelly shared.

Kelly has carried that same philosophy in her studies in the entrepreneurship program, where she says her classmates are more of a cohort. 

“I don’t like to call it a ‘class’ because we’re all on a different journey, and at different levels, with our businesses, and we all kind of help each other. Especially Steve [Thrash]; he doesn’t try to push people. He listens to what you’re trying to accomplish, and then he says, ‘OK, let's figure out how to get you there.’”

The cohort-like atmosphere has been the most beneficial part of the program for Kelly, who says being able to bounce ideas off of one another is impactful. She also has enjoyed going back to the basics and creating a succinct business pitch for her businesses, which coincidentally helped her win the Ivy Pitch Competition. 

“So much has changed my overall view,” Kelly shared. “I appreciate that Ivy Tech has so many resources for us.”


Kelly’s vision extends beyond the confines of traditional business strategies. 

“I never want to do things just for money. I always want to do it because I love it,” Kelly states, emphasizing the importance of passion in her work. 

Reflecting on her success and the road ahead, Kelly remains committed to growth and learning, viewing each new challenge as an opportunity to advance and refine her entrepreneurial skills.

 “Those who change with the times are always the most successful,” she notes.

As she continues to build her businesses and impact her community, Kelly’s story is a testament to the power of blending passion with perseverance, a combination that continues to define her journey as a standout entrepreneur in the beauty industry.

Learn more about Ivy Tech's Entrepreneurship Program

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.