Student-entrepreneurs apply learning to businesses


As college students look to get the most out of their time spent in college — some by participating in intramural sports, some by going on several dates per week and some by getting involved in student clubs and activities — there are some college students who have started their own businesses in hopes of finding success and gaining valuable hands-on professional experience prior to graduation.

Spencer Perkins, a sophomore from Payson studying business management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, started his business, Hatchet Eyewear, after he had the idea to make his own sunglasses. While serving his mission, Perkins broke his sunglasses several times — and by the fourth time he was fed up and ready to try something new.

Spencer Perkins, a college student, decided to make his own glasses after growing frustrated with the glasses he would buy. (Photo courtesy )
Spencer Perkins, a sophomore, decided to make his own sunglasses after growing frustrated with his constantly broken frames. (Photo courtesy Hatchet Eyewear)

“I wear glasses and they were constantly getting broken, especially while I was on my mission, so I went ahead and said I want to just make my own glasses,” Perkins said. “I broke down the different mediums and options and found wood would be the most stylish and acceptable medium and went for it.”

Hatchet Eyewear specializes in the production of sunglasses made out of wood. Perkins saw a chance to make something unique and different and went with it.

Daniel Shirley and Aaron Puglisi, both seniors studying industrial design, had their own ideas of what that they wanted to create. Shirley and Puglisi were both interested in making soft goods such as shoes and backpacks.

They got together and decided to design and produce their own backpack, the Jet Pack. After spending a lot of time on their project outside of school, Shirley and Puglisi came up with their own brand and company: Tessel.

“We wanted to create a brand that connected the young professional to their childhood,” Shirley said. “Towards the end of our sophomore year we had the idea to make a backpack with dimensionality to it.”

Perkins, Shirley and Puglisi faced uncertainty as they started their own businesses. Finding a way to responsibly balance a business on top of school and part-time work has proven challenging.

“I was always terrified of starting my own business because of the financial risk,” Shirley said. “But we really had nothing to lose and some of our work overlaps with class stuff.”

Perkins faced similar challenges starting Hatchet Eyewear.

“Well, I had to most definitely make (Hatchet Eyewear) a priority in my life, which was hard because I was going to school full-time and working another job almost 30 hours a week, which made it a pretty draining process,” Perkins said.

Although running a business while going to school has definitely been tough, Shirley and Puglisi found ways to effectively cope with the pressure of school and work.

“Working on it slowly has helped me spread out the work load,” Puglisi said. “It’s something I do in my free time.”

Tessel creators say they favor sleek, elegant design intended for young professionals. (Photo courtesy Tessel Supply)
Tessel creators Daniel Shirley and Aaron Puglisi say they favor a sleek, elegant design intended for young professionals. (Photo courtesy Tessel Supply)

Shirley and Puglisi decided that they would focus mainly on the design aspect of Tessel while they had their friend Greg Christopher, a student studying business, deal with the financial and manufacturing aspects of the work.

Perkins partnered up with his brother and found that Hatchet Eyewear was easier to run with the added help. Perkins knew that starting and running a business would be a useful experience as he studies entrepreneurship.

“A lot of the reason I started Hatchet Eyewear was so that as I studied entrepreneurship I could implement what I was learning and gain experience in college so I could graduate with some experience,” Perkins said.

Shirley and Puglisi also agreed that getting professional experience now will open doors to opportunities later.

“Doing work like this will make it easier to get a job. This could also lead into being our job,” Shirley said. “We want to take (Tessel) as far as we can in the next year and see where it goes from there.”

For these student entrepreneurs, starting a business has taught professional skills that are comparable to their formal education.

“When it comes to educational experience it is all about learning what you can do and preparing for the future. It’s been a great experience,” Puglisi said. “I feel like this has been just as educational as any one of my classes.”

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