Future Trinity Entrepreneurs Hear Success Stories
The cover story of Forbes Small Business magazine in August 2007 proclaimed entrepreneurship the new hot major in America’s colleges and universities. Increasingly, students are not only looking for the skills to succeed in business, they want an education that will equip them to start their own.
On Monday, November 12, Trinity business students had the opportunity to hear from Josh L. Powell, founder and namesake of J. L. Powell Apparel, on how he and his partner built a company from the ground up. The breakfast meeting was part of the Trinity Business Network’s (TBN) new Round Table program intended to give business students the opportunity to have more intimate, one on one conversations with Christian business leaders from the community several times a year.
Dean Vallas ’95, who is part of the TBN advisory board and helped develop the new Round Table program, introduced Powell, and helped moderate the conversation with students. Senior Jason Veenstra, a business communication major, appreciated the new format: “The discussion was great because being in a smaller group allowed Mr. Powell to tailor his presentation to us. We were able to ask about the things we are most interested in and he was able to focus on addressing those things.”
Powell, a former bond trader in Chicago, shared his experience of taking an idea, along with an entrepreneurial spirit, and turning it into a profitable, high-end men’s clothing company.
The idea was to offer clothing and equipment for outdoor sports enthusiasts that would be made from quality materials and with such superior craftsmanship that it could be passed from generation to generation, like many of the great hunting clothes Powell’s grandmother had given him as a child. Finding such quality goods and being able to sell them en masse at a reasonable price proved challenging for Powell.
The store, in Three Oaks, Michigan, is located in a remodeled train station and opened in March 2006. Its fast success with the local community, many of whom vacationed in the area, generated a need for a direct marketing channel that would continue to nurture the business: a catalog.
The first J. L. Powell catalog was shipped in April 2007 and, despite a small mailing list, proved to be an overwhelming success. The second catalog was shipped in September 2007 to a larger audience and has been equally, if not more, successful. Powell is anxious to see continually increasing distribution of and sales from the catalogs while opening a handful of new store locations in the Midwest and beyond.
Powell shared his future vision for the business and some of the pitfalls he experienced on the way. He made a special point of highlighting the importance of marketing and branding, and the ever-evolving role of the Web in launching a new business.
Powell encouraged students to fearlessly pursue their dreams and to be sure to enlist the help of more knowledgeable peers and experts to help them get there Veenstra took the advice to heart, “I really appreciated Mr. Powell’s comments on enlisting the help of more experienced professionals because it’s not something we always think about. We tend to think we can do it ourselves but hearing from someone whose business grew so quickly really makes it hit home.”
His comments and advice were rich with inspiration and ideas for students with equally ambitious futures ahead of them after graduation.
To learn more about J. L. Powell Apparel, visit www.jlpowellusa.com
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