CULLMAN, Ala. — Katie Fine felt like she was like many high school seniors and wasn’t completely ready to head off to a four-year university right after graduating Cullman High School. That’s why she said she was glad to have Wallace State Community College as a stepping stone to prepare her for her eventual transfer to Auburn University.

“I needed that time to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. She also benefited from the smaller class sizes as compared to those at a university. “That was a huge help,” she said. “Having that smaller class in comparison to when you’re at Auburn in a class of hundreds, it’s not quite the environment where you feel like you can say ‘I need help.’ Having that one-on-one opportunity in smaller classes was really helpful.”

After transferring to Auburn, Fine first worked toward a degree in Human Development and Family Studies before transferring to Zoology, but neither seemed the right fit. She fixed on Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, earning her bachelor’s degree. She interned for the United Way of Lee County while finishing her degree where she figured out she really didn’t want to sit behind a desk all the time.

All throughout her education, she’d worked in coffee shops and restaurants. “I liked the fast pace and being around people all the time,” she said. After college, she came back to Cullman and back to the coffee shop she’d worked at previously before opening her own coffee shop, Karma’s Coffee House, almost four years ago.

She admits her path to entrepreneur and business owner is “kind of an insane story,” but she appreciates all of the relationships she’s built from her time at Wallace State. “A lot of the relationships that I brought out of Wallace that are still active today,” she said. Those relationships include a few faculty and staff who had impacts on her life, such as former Dean of Students and math instructor Tomesa Smith, biology instructor Connie Briehn, and Kristen Holmes, head of the Communications and Marketing Department who oversaw the Mane Issue when Fine worked on the student publication.

Since Fine’s time at Wallace State, the college has expanded is business program offerings to include an associate degree in entrepreneurship aimed at preparing individuals to start a new business. The college also broke ground on a business incubator/entrepreneurship center last fall and is a partner in Technology Village Cullman, which helps entrepreneurs launch ideas into successful businesses.

Along with opening Karma’s Coffee House, Fine has also married and about four months ago she and her husband Jacob (another Wallace State alum) welcomed a boy they named Cooper. Professionally, the shop has become a success, winning local and state awards.