Scope2016 - page 29

It was a mentoring relationship
between Al-
exander Nassief ’16 and Sara Arnell ’82 that boosted
his startup, Rum Dogs, into the top spot in the 2016
Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition, after
he had fallen just short in previous years.
 The first prize included $20,000 to help imple-
ment his groundbreaking process for aging rum.
He has reduced the time from five years to just six
months by maturing it in the ocean. As of this sum-
mer, Nassief reports, Rum Dogs “is going quite well”;
the funding enabled his company to triple produc-
 Arnell, a public relations professional based in
New York City, has volunteered in the Freirich con-
test for several years. Watching this year’s competi-
tors make their pitches, she felt, “I wanted to work
with Alex. I had watched him for the past three years
and had a good understanding of what he needed to
break through.”
Nassief says her guidance helped him win, filling
a gap with “her expertise in branding, marketing,
packaging, and selling.” He adds, “I always felt that
the cash prize was very enabling but would be squan-
dered without proper guidance.”
All along, he worked with professors, peers, and
alumni, including competition founder Ken Freirich
’90—all of them exceedingly generous with their
time and experience, says the determined young en-
trepreneur, a native of Dominica. That “diverse group
of mentors,” he says, “made what Rum Dogs accom-
plished far more possible. Each mentor of mine had a
distinct style, but also incredible wisdom to offer.”
It’s a “two-way street,” Arnell emphasizes. “The
openness of the students to listen, learn, and refine
their work is critical to the process. It’s a real effort in
coming together over a short time period to achieve
a shared goal.” The two communicated via texting,
email, phone, and FaceTime.
Nassief credits Skidmore’s “absolutely nurturing
environment and community full of eclectic ideas”
with exposing him to enriching resources that “made
a world of difference” in his academic, personal, and
professional trajectory. Arnell adds that the college’s
“great liberal arts foundation allows graduates to
pivot and pursue anything they want.”
For Nassief, the mentorship “validated a business
idea”; for Arnell, the teaming was an opportunity
to “drive with a very singular purpose to win.” She
concludes, “If you have had success in your career
and have knowledge and expertise to share, pay it
—Helen Edelman ’74
Alex Nassief ’16
Arnel: Charlie Samuels ; Nassief :Zack Bagot
Sara Arnel ’82
For a fledgling business, rounding
out the plan brings in crucial funding.
Dogged entrepreneur
Zak Bagot
Charlie Samuels
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