On the cusp of breaking ground on a dream business venture, Lauren Mitchell – who made history this spring as the first person to earn a bachelor’s degree from Yavapai College -- is counting her blessings while acknowledging the relentless drive and determination she harnessed to arrive at this pivotal moment in life.

Lauren’s dream is coming to fruition after four whirlwind years at YC coinciding with the close of a fulfilling decade-plus of “being there” for her two children and supporting her husband’s college and career pursuits. 

“I loved being the support system my husband (Neil) needed and being the best mom I could for my kids. But there comes a time when the kids become more independent and you have more time for yourself so in a sense, you can ask, ‘what do I want to do?’”

The answer to that question has long been brewing for the Prescott native who intermittently experienced being an employee and was keen to be an employer.

“As an employee there are no guarantees. As a business owner, I’m accountable for ensuring the business survives and thrives. I wanted to create something that’s long-lasting. I wanted to see my dream come to life.”

With that in mind, Lauren enrolled at Yavapai College in 2020 bent on a getting a transfer degree while simultaneously developing and marketing a “clean” hydration product for children. She planned to transfer to an Arizona university, but the announcement in January 2023 that YC was offering business bachelor’s degrees prompted her to launch full throttle into the program. Taking advantage of the college’s free credits offer beyond 12 credits, she took 20-plus credits per semester to finish her bachelor’s in two semesters. In the process, she made history – the first and sole bachelor’s degree earner this spring.

The feat is a testament to Lauren’s desire to learn everything she could about business and entrepreneurship and invest that knowledge in a new business venture that today is just months away from opening. That single-mindedness had her studying for hours nightly after her children, Jayden now 12, and Cameron, now 11, were snug in bed, dragging her laptop and other study materials with her everywhere  to squeeze the most out of every spare moment (submit a quiz while waiting in a COVID-19 testing drive-through line, for example) in her day.

But time management wasn’t Lauren’s biggest challenge. Getting started was, she said, recalling the abject fear gripping her as she was walking to her first class – she remembers the exact date – Jan. 13, 2020 – her late mother’s birthday.

“I was terrified thinking what if the teacher calls on me and I don’t know the answer,” Lauren recalled of her first day of college. Today, having learned more than just business acumen as a YC student, Lauren looks back on the experience philosophically. “The thing is nobody knows the answer. Everyone is there to learn, to gain knowledge, to improve their future lives and to ultimately reach a goal,” she said.

Neither the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic nor her mother’s health deterioration and eventual passing deterred Lauren in her quest to learn how to become her own boss. “No matter how difficult something is, you have to decide at some point are you going to push through or are you going to curl up and say forget it. Quitting wasn’t an option for me because at the end of the day it didn’t just affect me. It affected my future and the future of my family.”

Lauren fearlessly pursued her bachelor’s degree, immersing herself in available resources, support, wisdom and connections offered by YC faculty, mentors and an internship with Founding Father’s Collective, a thriving multi-business space in downtown Prescott. At the same time, her new business marrying her children’s hydration product with a quick-service restaurant, or QSR, concept was taking shape.

Pursuing a  bachelor’s degree at Yavapai College helped make it all possible, Lauren said.

“The faculty really would bend and help facilitate what I wanted to do. And the degree definitely aligned with my goals and with what I wanted to do. It definitely has been a very beneficial resource,” she said of the YC Business Bachelor’s degree program.

The intangible value of the degree is immeasurable, Lauren added, citing critical thinking skills, discipline and a broader understanding of other fields. “It also cultivates a sense of accomplishment and confidence, reinforcing your ability to tackle complex challenges and pursue ambitious goals.”

Even before the “open” sign for her new business flips on, Lauren is already eyeing expansion. “The goal is not to be one and done. The goal is to expand. I’ve got a five-year plan and a 10-year plan,” she said.

Those plans include giving back to the community that has helped Lauren achieve her business ownership dream. Namely, Lauren plans to offer flexible jobs, internships and become a mentor to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

“I want to pass down what I know and the knowledge I gained from other people along the way,” she said.

Asked for advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone with a dream to chase, Lauren said, “If there’s something you want to do, something you are passionate about, you will work for it no matter how many hours it takes. You will figure out a way.”

To learn more about YC’s Business Bachelor’s Degree program, visit

Yavapai College operates six campuses and centers throughout Yavapai County and offers more than 100 degrees and certificates, two baccalaureate degrees, student and community services, and cultural events and activities.

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