Two Catawba students launch entrepreneurial ventures
SALISBURY — Two Catawba College students are nurturing their entrepreneurial spirits thanks to ventures they developed at Catawba’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Experiential Development (CEED) lab. The students — sophomore Sam Young of Smithfield and senior Griffin Morgan of Charlotte —credit the CEED Lab and its director, Dr. Renee Just, with helping them cultivate their business ideas into potential business products.
Young, a business administration major pursuing a concentration in entrepreneurship, is an honors student and the recipient of Catawba’s prestigious McCorkle Scholarship. He has two ventures in the CEED lab right now. One venture is for a line of men’s skin care products that Young will market under the name “Dashfire,” and the other is a cutting edge app for college students.
Morgan, a computer science major who completed his degree coursework in December, has a venture in the CEED lab that he will continue to develop during the spring of 2018. His venture — called Mercurial Recruiting — is a recruiting website for athletes trying to get into college.
Just, the CEED Lab Director, speaks with pride about the ventures these young men are developing.
“Sam and Griffin both came with ideas, passion for their venture, and a ‘can do’ attitude,” said Just. “We are very proud of their dedication and commitment to the CEED lab, the entrepreneurship program and to achieving their goals. It has been a pleasure working with them and I am confident that they will each find success in their own right.”
“My brand is named Dashfire,” explained Young, “‘Dashfire’ is a term from the 1800s that sailors used for men who had a certain ineffable quality about them – they were super manly and brave and a bit crazy. I loved the history behind that. Deep down, all of us want to be that kind of guy. Our brand says, ‘It’s time to face the world’ — to connect to that desire.”
“The idea behind men’s skin care products is changing; our perception of manliness in the U.S. is changing. We tend to be 20 to 40 years behind trends that originate in Europe. In America, we used to view masculine men as ‘off the cuff, unprepared, with a careless swagger about them.’ In Europe, it’s drastically different; masculinity is more fashionable, more tailored, more meticulous. Men in Europe are using skin care products – moisturizers, cleansers, toners. We’re seeing this trend growing in the U.S. — men starting to use skin care products — not just metrosexuals, but even the manliest men are starting to pay attention.
“In an interview, Dwayne Johnson — the Rock — said he uses skin care on himself. He says he only has one face, so he exfoliates. It’s not something to be quiet about any more,” Young said.
Young’s goal is to provide consumers with “intensely masculine products, branded in extremely masculine ways.” He describes his product packaging as classically stout and hardy with a metal cap on it rather than plastic.
He has hired an Oregon-based lab to formulate his products and to create “a scent that is very woodsy with citrus notes, following many traditional scent cues from men. “Almost all classic masculine scents had bergamot and sandalwood, so cueing off of those, I can take scents that are familiar to them and incorporate them into skin care,” Young continues. “It’s interesting that guys are going more and more old school and at the same time, people are becoming more concerned with the experience of using a product. They are concerned with how the experience changes them. Skin care is becoming more of a ritual that sets the tone for your day than just another habit.”
Young notes that his products will be high quality and effective, while being affordable.
Now that he has officially registered Dashfire with the State of North Carolina as an LLC, he is working on getting his products placed in traditional settings, such as barbershops, as well as more trendy places such as unisex salons and grooming supply stores. He hope to begin selling this winter.
“I don’t have a distributor, I will be promoting it myself, and actually, I’ll be hiring people to help me,” he said. “Initially, I’ll concentrate on this state and on my web presence.”
Young hopes to build a “community of likeminded men” on his website, dashfireman.com.
“I’m going to be very aggressive in starting a grassroots brand. I won’t just provide a product, I’m going to teach and inform people about how to use it and other products in that genre,” he said.
Visit https://dashfireman.com/ for more information.
“I’ve always thought of myself as someone who fixes problems or solves problems,” Griffin Morgan said. “I never really saw myself as working for someone else’s dream. I started working on my venture during my sophomore year, a year before the CEED lab actually existed. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart but I didn’t realize it until I came to Catawba.”
Morgan came up with the idea for his venture thanks in part to his sophomore year roommate, an international student who played soccer with him on Catawba’s squad.
“I realized that international students didn’t really know what was going on here before they were coming over after being recruited,” he explained.
So Morgan developed a recruiting website for athletes trying to get into college and collegiate coaches trying to recruit new student athletes for their programs. After seeing coaches using email to connect with prospective student-athletes, he came up with a platform that “takes all of the data from camps that coaches attend for recruiting players and puts it all into one place (the app) where they can access and review it after the fact.”
And his platform has something for players too. They can visit the website to create a profile that includes name, GPA, position, SAT score, height and weight — and they can also register for sports camp on the Mercurial Recruiting site.
The website has a base level that is free to student athletes and coaches, and premium level that is $11.99 a month. Premium subscription allows players to upload videos, search information about a school and coaches or to contact coaches. The player sends a contact request to a particular coach who can respond and accept the request so a conversation begins between the player and coach.
Savvy about NCAA recruiting rules, the Mercurial Recruiting site has embedded protocols that prevent a player or a coach from contacting or messaging each other until September of the player’s junior year in high school, when the student-athletes are eligible for recruitment.
Morgan has registered his business as an LLC with the State of North Carolina and he is now working to build a market for it.
“We have what we believe is a really good product, but we’re a new company, so we are trying to figure out how to bring in coaches and athletes,” he said. “Our goal now is to bring in ID camps and coaches. International players are not going to be wanting to use our app until we have a considerable amount of coaches who participate in or run ID camps.
“A lot of our promotion is on Instagram (which players use) and on Twitter (which coaches use),” he said. “We’re actually launching a competition in December where players can upload video of them doing a soccer trick and can be eligible to win a t-shirt. Instead of building a product, we want to build a community of coaches and players.”
Morgan is optimistic and willing to put the work in to help is venture succeed. Although he has a job lined up to begin after he completes his coursework in December, he will still be working on launching his business.
“I’m actually going to Israel in the spring to pitch my idea to venture capitalists, and since I’ll still have access to the CEED lab after I graduate, I’ll be going on the trip as a venture instead of as a student, and that is pretty exciting,” he said.
A devout Christian, Morgan acknowledges the role of God in his venture by including a Bible verse from 1 Corinthians 15:10 in the footer of his website: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
And why the name, Mercurial Recruiting? Well, that name has a Catawba connection, too. During his freshman year, Morgan took a class about Eastern Mythology and one of the people he studied was Mercury, the messenger between the Gods.
“That name kind of fit my venture because we wanted to be a go-between between the coaches and the athletes.” he shared
“I realize that I am the guy who will fail miserably or do really great; I won’t be mediocre. My heart is 100 percent in it, and at the end of the day, you kind of have to jump in and move forward. That’s the only way to really learn and experience,” he said.
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