The Bentley community is proving that a passion can turn into a business. Lucius Firmin ’23, Scott Sawyer ’23, Shannon Fairweather ’20 and Daniel Linger ’17 are among those who learned what it takes to launch a company — from managing supply chain to raising awareness to balancing the books — and made it happen.
Craving Tolerance: A clothing line with a message
Lucius Firmin ’23 runs CRAV*, a clothing label that’s drawn the attention of some of the National Basketball Association’s most fashion-forward and socially conscious superstars who resonate with the company’s mission (and the meaning behind the acronym): Change requires accepting views. He launched first collection — two T-shirts, one black and one white — the summer before his sophomore year, a time where struggles for diversity and inclusion were commanding the attention of American politics and culture.
“When I started CRAV*, I called it a movement, not a brand,” says Firmin, a Corporate Finance and Accounting major at Bentley. “When Black Lives Matter came to the forefront last summer, I would always hear people complaining, but then go about their day. We can’t complain and not do anything. That spark, that fire, is something I think people should have every single day.”
Following the T-shirt line, Firmin used his COVID stimulus check to expand his most recent line to include sweats, shorts and hats. Along the way, Firmin has had to figure out business aspects like supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and everything else needed to run a successful business.
Marketing is done through his website and social media. Firmin also came up with a list of the best-dressed NBA players and peppered them with direct messages pointing them to his website. New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker was the first to sign on, but he wasn’t the last, and later six-time NBA All Star Kyrie Irving.
Moving forward, Firmin says that the Bentley community will play a key role in the success of his business. His business education has given him invaluable help with the financial aspects of running CRAV*, and access to design software has given him the tools he needs to keep creating innovative offerings.
“I wouldn’t know how to do it without Bentley,” he says. “I feel like any time I tell a professor, or tell my friends at Bentley, they are so quick to support me. That love, that support, has made a big impact.”
Aboveboard Enterprise: Navigating a lobster fishing business
Scott Sawyer ’23 was just 12 years old when he got a commercial lobster permit so he could start his own lobster business out of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He needed $60, a note from his middle school guidance counselor and an academic transcript to apply for a lobster permit for his first entrepreneurial endeavor.
“I learned a lot of the supply chain process of lobstering on the job, as well as how to manage revenues and expenses, and how to turn a profit,” says Sawyer.
When he first started the business, Scott’s Lobsters, Sawyer had high upfront costs. He mowed lawns to pay for lobster traps, buying used traps “in tough shape” and rebuilding them to save money. Days were spent on the water, baiting and pulling traps, and measuring lobsters — a lobster that is too small or has visible eggs or a notch on the tail signifying a female is released.
A decade later, business is strong and so is Sawyer’s business sense. Behind the scenes, he enjoys analyzing data using skills he is learning as a Finance major at Bentley.
“Now I can take data from my catch reports, expenses like gas and bait, and revenue from sales, to create Excel spreadsheets that track profits and allow me to compare numbers from year to year,” says Sawyer, who chose Bentley based on his early taste
In addition to the operations and financial management benefits of the spreadsheets, Sawyer likes having a visual representation. “I can easily create a graph to show how much I’m making per season or per pull to help determine the best-performing months.”
Though his relationships with buyers have remained consistent over the years, Sawyer believes he has gained a better understanding of the importance of communication and networking — particularly after taking Bentley’s career development courses.
“What I enjoy about finance is that it’s not just about the numbers; it’s also about maintaining relationships,” says Sawyer, who is exploring a career in wealth management. “That’s key to any industry.”
Saving the World One Sip at a Time
Shannon Fairweather ’20 and Daniel Linger ’17 launched Sustainable Sippin’ in August 2018 with a mission to reduce the 500 million-plus plastic straws used each day in the United States. The company sells stainless steel reusable straws that can be customized with a branded message. Each sale will contribute to the greater good.
“A strategic goal of ours is to produce enough sales revenue to give back to charities committed to cleaning up oceans,” explains Fairweather, who majored in Information Design and Corporate Communication. “It’s our job to be a socially responsible business.”
Fairweather met Linger in an industrial ecology course and the pair shared a passion for sustainability and business. They talked often about launching an ecommerce business.
“At Bentley we were surrounded by people talking about entrepreneurship,” says Linger, who combined a Marketing major with an additional major focusing on sustainability. “To be around that energy all the time is very powerful. You can’t help but gain confidence about starting your own company.”
So, when Fairweather proposed selling reusable straws, Linger didn’t hesitate. From a makeshift office in Linger’s home, they started working on supply chain management and using social media to market the business. It gathered Instagram followers and, in 2019, Sustainable Sippin’ got its first bulk order — from University of Connecticut GIVE, an online fundraising program to support the university.
Linger handles online marketing lead generation, Facebook and Instagram advertising, and back-end website software. Social media, customer service and order processing are managed by Fairweather, who credits her Bentley professors for their enthusiasm and support. One management professor invited her to talk to the class about Sustainable Sippin’ and create its business plan as her final project for the course. In fact, she was sitting in a management class during a pivotal day for the young company.
“A massive amount of orders started coming in,” recalls Fairweather. “I’m not going to lie. I started fulfilling them right then and there.”
The product line expanded to include stainless steel travel mugs, a clothing line and a reusable tote bag – and the business even got a shout-out from ABC Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful).
“There’s something unique about Bentley,” Linger says. “It’s one thing to learn in the classroom while reading a textbook or taking a test, but another thing to take that information and put it into something that makes a difference”.
Fairweather agrees. “Bentley has given us the opportunity to go out in the world and use our knowledge for something much greater.”
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