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Tenacity keeps Berger in the game

April 3, 2013

Tenacity keeps Berger in the game

Tenacity is a key ingredient in the Skidmore Mind, and would-be entrepreneur Seth Berger ’14 has plenty—enough to win the Freirich Business Plan competition?

April 3, 2013

Seth Berger
Seth Berger

“Tenacity makes all the difference,” says The Skidmore Mind. And that’s certainly true of Seth Berger ’14, a business major from Burlington, Vt. He started his own custom athletic apparel company, East Coast Lacrosse, out of the trunk of his car soon after his high school graduation in 2010, and he hasn’t stopped since.

Berger is one of six finalists vying for $50,000 in cash prizes and business services in Skidmore’s Third Annual Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition, launched by Ken Freirich ’90, a “serial entrepreneur” and president of Health Monitor Network. The prizes are intended to act as a catalyst to help students start or grow their own businesses. The final round will be held Friday, April 12, at 2:45 p.m. in the Payne Presentation Room of the Tang Museum.  

For Berger, the Freirich contest is just another step toward his goal of making East Coast Lacrosse a leader in a market niche he discovered as a high school lacrosse player. In 2011, his first year at Skidmore, he rang up nearly $30,000 in sales but pocketed just $600. In 2012 he nearly doubled sales, but he still couldn’t overcome his investment in inventory and closed the year $10,000 in the red. And a cash prize from last year’s Freirich Competition didn’t materialize as he finished just out of the running.

But Berger, an attackman on Skidmore’s lacrosse team who takes many of the squad’s face-offs, is no quitter. If anything, last year’s experience gave him a leg up. He says, “Going through the workshop and the competition gave me a good idea of what I needed to do to improve my business plan—why would I not push forward? I’ve used the feedback I got from the judges and the insights from coaches and mentors to revise my strategy and paint a fuller picture of where East Coast Lacrosse can go in the future.” See more in this brief video.

To achieve his goals—increasing sales to $180,000 in 2013 and $200,000 in 2014, with hopes of reaching $25,000 in net income in 2014—Berger believes he will ultimately need to add sales people and graphic designers, beginning with interns. His strategies also include ramping up his travel to lacrosse events for invaluable face-to-face exposure, increased online visibility, and diversification (college bookstores, for example).

In addition to the assistance he’s received from Freirich and Professor Roy Rotheim, Berger is being advised by Jim Rossi ’82, managing partner of the Saratoga Polo Association and chief marketing officer for the United States Polo Association. Berger says, “Jim, Ken, and Roy have all helped me realize that I have something viable that can be much more than a side business. Jim has been very generous in introducing me to some of his colleagues, as well as pushing me to make East Coast Lacrosse as profitable as possible.”

The other finalists:

Magdalen Andreoni ’13, a studio arts major, aims to establish “the only specialty-cookie mobile shop in Chicago,” an enterprise she calls The Cookie Jar. Using gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan recipes she has developed from scratch for such flavors as chocolate chip, “oatmeal monster,” peanut-butter chocolate chunk, and gingersnap, she’s targeting Chicago’s Loop, where foot traffic is highest. Advising Andreoni is Mary Vail ’80, president and chief designer of Joyelles Jewelers.

Alexander Nassief ’16 and Brianna Barros ’16, having established Rum Dogs Inc., aim to implement a proprietary method for aging rum in barrels submerged in the Caribbean Sea and produce a premium brand, called Black Cap Rum, for the Dominican market. “The product line will serve as a symbol of Dominican ingenuity whilst adhering to local values of eco-friendliness,” they say. Advising them is Catherine Hill, F. William Harder Professor of Business Administration at Skidmore.

Samuel Schultz ’13, who spent a year in Beijing, hopes to provide residential summer-camp placement services in the U.S. for English-speaking Chinese nationals through his Summer Destinations Company. Advising Schulz is Nancy Wekselbaum ’73, president of the Gracious Gourmet.

Kelsey Yam ’13 is a management and business major who is also a star forward on Skidmore’s soccer team. Having interned at Soccer Without Borders in Kampala, Uganda, she proposes to establish a satellite program in Fort Portal, a city in western Uganda. Her program is targeted for poverty-stricken refugee girls under 15. Advising Yam is Rich Flaherty, president and CEO, Cove Risk Services.




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