Entrepreneurial Ephs

I know I’m not the only one who has heard of Williams graduates going on to become successful entrepreneurs and  business magnates. Where does all this business savvy come from? Is it just an inherent talent? Or did these independent Ephs hone their skills at their alma mater? I asked around and found a few students who have taken their economic independence into their own hands.

Will Gruner ’11: Easy Eph Laundry
Will Gruner ’11, like many students, hated doing laundry as a first-year. The faulty laundry machines in Mission didn’t help. Realizing that other people probably shared his sentiments, he started his very own laundry service. Still, it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Winter Study of his sophomore year he took a class called “Entrepreneurship as an Art Form.” “Every part of starting the business was an assignment for the class,” Gruner said. Today, for a small fee you can join a service that allows you to send your laundry to Waterworks Cleaners in North Adams. Though Gruner gets a percentage of the per-pound price, he said he’s not working to make a profit, but to provide a necessary service. Gruner, on behalf of first-years everywhere, I salute you.

Catherine Lamb ’13, Rachel Kessler ’13 & Anna Silberstein ’13: Cakes on Demand
Cakes on Demand came about almost by chance. “It was more of a ‘I wonder if we could get paid for this’ thing,” Lamb said. Besides being business partners, Lamb and Kessler both play ultimate frisbee, are musical, hail from Atlanta, Ga. and, of course, love to bake. After Lamb and Kessler spent a fateful (and, one must assume, tasty) afternoon baking and musing on economic possibilities, ACE commissioned them to make cupcakes for Stressbusters. Silberstein, who also loves baking, got involved in the business by helping with advertising. Next year, the three will come back even better prepared, with baking tools, a kitchen and assurance that they would never dare use a mix. The only thing that remains uncertain is whether or not they will give me a free cupcake for writing about them.

Dominique Exume ’13: Mary K
When a friend of her father tried to sell her some Mary K products, Exume wasn’t only sold on the makeup, but the business idea as well. Though she hasn’t started her business in full yet, she has promising plans for the future. Over the summer she’ll take a workshop on the ins and outs of the makeup and skin care business, such as giving facials and salesperson trade secrets. It’s not like she needs training in how to think business, though. She has already analyzed the makeup market in Williamstown (in a word: Harts’) and decided that she could fill an important niche in the College’s economy. She also plans to table every week in Paresky to get the word out about her startup business. Though she has no plans to continue this business after college, it looks like she’ll recoup her hundred-dollar investment and then some.

John Dingee ’10 : 5Cee Clothing
Dingee’s philosophy is, simply put, DIY (do-it-yourself). He runs 5Cee Clothing, taking on all the responsibilities of keeping it in the black. Through 5Cee, he sells both donated clothes and his own in Paresky and online. His venture is somewhat deceptively named, as he also sells artwork and music. Although Dingee runs his business by himself, he doesn’t do it for himself. His long-term goal is to get enough money to build a school in Ambento, Ghana, where he spent time abroad. He said that the “Ephs for Relief” clothing sale in February, during which he donated all his profits to a charity he also created, was one of the biggest successes so far for his business. His plans go beyond graduation, however, as he intends to rent space for his business in Yonkers, N.Y., and to manage a rock band.

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