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04-02-2014

Clarkson University First-year Entrepreneurs Combine Compassion with Commerce

Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Clarkson University students Dan Briere and Evan Jennings, who created a successful backpack company that showcases their business sense, marketing savvy and compassion.

Clarkson University first-year entrepreneurs Evan Jennings (left) and Dan Briere and their Outland backpacks.Outland Manufacturing's canvas backpacks are attractive, as well as rugged, so early sales are brisk. Customers are also embracing the company's spirit of social enterprise. For every backpack that Outland sells, school supplies are donated to help an impoverished child in Haiti.

“We're working with the nonprofit organization Healing Haiti in Cite Soleil," says Briere. "This is one of the poorest cities in the world. Most families live on less than $2 a day, so a donation from one backpack goes far."

Co-founder Jennings has been to Haiti before and has a passion for helping there.

“The children are trying hard to get an education,” he says. “Whatever we can do to help is great.”

The 18-year-old entrepreneurs -- Briere from St. Paul, Minn., and Jennings from Lowville, N.Y. -- are among Marc Compeau's first-year students in Clarkson's School of Business. In two semesters, everyone in the class is required to identify a need, develop a product or service, pitch the idea to investors and then launch the business.

“We give them real-world experience in their first year to connect the rest of their learning to,” Compeau says. “They can understand the need of job descriptions and business plans because they've started a business.”

His students briefly pitch their ideas to a group of alumni with experience in banking and investing. If their projects are declined funding, the students can make changes and pitch again or walk away.

“Those who retrench learn the most,” Compeau says. “Some decide being an entrepreneur is not for them. That's great because this is the safest place to fail. It's class. They don't lose their house or savings.”

In Outland Manufacturing's case, investors were so intrigued, they wanted to have a piece of the business rather than simply provide funding. So the freshmen negotiated a deal and kicked off business in February.

Dayle Smith, dean of the School of Business, bought backpacks for her children, so she's a satisfied customer as well as a pleased administrator.

“It is exciting to see this next generation deeply committed to helping school children in the developing world while developing a business with a triple bottom-line orientation of people, planet and profit," she says. "We are very proud of these students and others who are using experiential learning to make a difference.”

For more information on Outland Manufacturing, visit http://www.giveoutland.com or check out the company's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/outlandmfg .

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University first-year entrepreneurs Evan Jennings (left) and Dan Briere and their Outland backpacks.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/outland.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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