After swimming in polluted waters off the coast of Singapore for 10 years and then seeing the pristine shore of Cape Cod, Mass., Brian Linton vowed to keep the beauty alive. And after the boredom of small-town college got to him, he decided to start his own business focusing on just that.
Linton, a junior transfer Asian Studies major, grew up in Singapore, but often visited his grandparents at their Cape Cod inn. He moved to the U.S. when he first started at Calvin College in Michigan two years ago.
“Once you see the pristine beaches of Cape Cod, you want to keep them that way,” he said. “Ocean conservation is my fundamental belief.”
Linton began planning for his business during his senior year of high school. In Singapore, Linton and his friend’s dad, John McCarvel, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Crocs, Inc., went golfing to talk business. Linton pitched his idea to import men and women’s jewelry and brand it with a cause.
“Selfish or not, it’s necessary to have businesses associated with good causes,” Linton said.
His logo, a lobster and slogan “It’s not about the lobster. It’s about every little thing that makes this place [Cape Cod] beautiful” appears on his Web site, catalog and merchandise tags.
McCarvel, now Linton’s mentor, offered to partner with him in his conservation efforts.
In the summer of 2006, Linton invested $300 in jewelry from Thailand, sold it in the U.S. and earned profit immediately. Since his childhood, Linton has been interested in importing.
“Growing up, I noticed everything is much more expensive here in the United States than in Asia,” Linton said.
The following fall, Linton traveled to China to study Mandarin Chinese in an intensive program at the Beijing Institute of Education. He spent his year abroad designing his website and catalog, and when he returned to the U.S. in June 2007, he officially launched Sand Shack, LLC.
“Running a business by yourself can be lonely,” he said. “Over the summer, I worked 12 hour days and put over 12,000 miles on my car making sales calls.”
However, his long hours paid off. By the end of the summer, he was wholesaling to 50 ‘mom-and-pop’ stores in Cape Cod, along with organizing and hosting four conservation events with the National Park Service in Cape Cod.
On his Web site sandshack.com, Linton advertised the volunteer events and offered participants a free pair of Crocs and $20 of Sand Shack merchandise as incentives.
Currently, Linton is planning a subsidized winter catalog and designing a line of unique apparel. In the spring, his new line of logo hats will appear at Puritan Cape Cod, an upscale clothing store in Massachusetts.
He’s also trying to break into the Philly market. Linton advertises on Facebook with his company-titled group, “Sand Shack.” When students have been a member for one month, he sends them a promotion code for $20 of free merchandise from his Web site.
“At the early stages of my company, I feel like I have to give away to promote,” he said.
In the long run, Linton plans to abandon or sell his LLC.
“I don’t want to be in jewelry in five years,” he said.
Linton likes to cater to the needs of consumers and has his sight set on budget coffee. His idea?
“The atmosphere and quality of Starbucks with the prices of a lunch truck,” he said.
Senior Mark Peters, president of Temple’s Entrepreneurial Student Association, agreed with Linton’s strategy.
“It is better to innovate the niches we already have rather than create new ones,” Peters said. “It is financially easier to make the existing industries better.”
Right now, Peters is too busy finishing his double major in entrepreneurship and marketing to run a business. However, as Linton would attest, it can be done.
“You can run a business in college, but you must be willing to sacrifice,” Peters said. “You have to let some things go.”
When he was 14, Peters started a freelance Web site and logo design company. Later, he founded tristaterock.com, an online music promotion company that received 25,000 hits daily. However, college got in the way, Peters said.
“We do the best we can,” Peters said. “It will be hard to turn the million dollar idea. We understand the risks.”
Law student Robert Masterson knows about taking risks. Last year Masterson won first place for Creative Products and Services in the Temple University Business Innovation Competition for ReNuTunes, a business that focuses in restoring original vinyl records and converting old media into audio files or MP3s.
“Don’t worry too much about what you are going to do,” Masterson said. “Circumstances and opportunities will dictate your next move. It is a very good idea to take risks and pursue interests.”
He said he hopes to have ReNuTunes up and running in time for the Christmas season. However, he is still working through some copyright issues.
Masterson explained that the basic idea of copyright law is to protect the rights of the creator, but there is a legal issue – the people who bought the records have useless copies of the creator’s work. Therefore, the consumers have the right to restore the media.
Masterson is working on an article for the Temple Law Review to prove ReNuTunes will not violate copyright laws. He said he plans to finish the article by the end of the semester and use it to convince potential investors.
For Masterson, music was always a hobby. He has a large vinyl collection and favors classical and rock and roll.
“When I started my undergrad, I envisioned myself in computers and music,” he said. “Now, I’ve come full circuit.”
Masterson earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in electrical engineering and computer science, and later earned his master’s degree in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. Now’s he’s studying law here at Temple.
“Although they were very different, my undergrad and grad [studies] were very helpful,” said Masterson, “sometimes in the oddest ways.”
Linton, Peters and Masterson found the business school and the Innovation and Entrepreneurial Institute, an organization whose Web site says it strives to promote “entrepreneurial spirit,” to be very valuable.
“The Temple Entrepreneurial Institute is tremendously helpful and very eager to see us start successful businesses,” Masterson said.
Entrepreneurship and strategic management professor Dwight Carey said professors are always there to help students.
“The help that we can give all these fledgling entrepreneurs is a continuous stream of stories of individual accomplishments, both from current students and alumni of any age,” Carey said. “A 50-year-old Temple grad who sells his business for $100 million is a compelling story just as much as a senior whose venture makes its first major sale.”
Leah Kristie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.