In the (Business) Spirit
HCC student-entrepreneurs collect Grinspoon awards
Like all good business ideas, Nate Frank's began with a question: "What if ...?"
A few years ago, as a student at Northampton High School, Frank often wore Ralph Lauren hats. Ralph Lauren makes the Polo line of men's clothes. The logo is a polo player.
He had a thought: "Wouldn't it be cool if someone put the Algonquian warrior from the Massachusetts state flag on a hat?"
No one else had done it, he discovered, so he did.
Eventually, that idea grew into a business, Bay State Brimmers, described in its mission statement as a "Massachusetts-based clothing brand devoted to empowering pride and community among people in New England."
So far, through Bay State Brimmers, Frank sells two lines of baseball hats and beanies. One line features a pine tree as its emblem ("The N.E. Pine Tree Collection"), the other the Algonquian warrior, who, as on the flag, carries a bow and arrow, pointing down, signifying peace. That's the "Massachusetts Peaceful Warrior Collection."
"That goes along with the philosophy of being peaceful but being able to defend yourself if necessary," Frank said.
Now a business administration major at Holyoke Community College, the 21-year-old Holyoke resident collected a $900 check Wednesday night from the Harold Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative, which held its annual awards banquet at The Log Cabin restaurant.
Frank was one of four HCC students who received Spirit Awards for their home-grown businesses, which were on display along with those of their peers at other area colleges.
"I am always in awe of the innovation and initiative of our students," said HCC president Christina Royal.
Helen Chui, 31, a business administration and marketing major from Springfield, received $300 for Shake Shake Cup, a food business in which she serves, in a cup, your choice of shredded mango or cooked corn prepared with a variety of seasonings, spices and sauces.
"It's a healthy snack," she said.
She intends to use the money to buy supplies for the kiosk she is opening soon at the Holyoke Mall.
HCC student Christopher Cruz, 19, of Springfield, and his co-founder, STCC student Gary Lindsey, each received $500 for their urban apparel business, Interstellar Supply Clothing, which is already operating at the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, Conn. Interstellar clothes feature the tagline "Splash."
"It's about making a splash," said Cruz, explaining the positive message they're trying to convey. "Make a difference in the community. It encourages women and men and boys and girls to be amongst the stars."
Alyssa Smith, 22, of Springfield, represented HCC in the annual Elevator Pitch competition with her 90-second marketing spiel for Yoga for Youth. She also received $800 as a Spirit Award winner for her private, by-appointment-only, manicuring service, Girl Time.
"It's like your girlfriend is doing your nails," she said. "It's personal, it's unique, and it's catered."
Smith started the business in her dorm room when she was a biology student at Springfield College. She's now taking entrepreneurship classes at HCC, and on March 1 she opened her first studio, on Main Street in Springfield. She hopes to some day to expand the business into a franchise operation, "so you can get the Girl Time experience wherever you're at," she said.
For his part, Frank said he intends to invest his Spirit Award money in an embroidery machine for Bay State Brimmers, so he won't have to farm out work to subcontractors.
"It will help me to be able to play around with the machine and do it myself," he said.
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Thumbnail) President Christina Royal congratulates HCC student Alyssa Smith for winning a Grinspoon Foundation Spirit Award for Girl Time, her private manicuring service. (Above) HCC student Nate Frank won $900 from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for Bay State Brimmers, his line of baseball caps featuring Massachusetts pride logos like the Algonquin "peaceful warrior" from the state flag.