SHERIDAN — Just weeks after they won $13,500 in start-up capital and a great deal of exposure in a national entrepreneurship competition, Sheridan High School graduate Alex Lowe and two of his classmates at Massachusetts’ Babson College have incorporated a new company set to specialize in live-roasted craft coffee.
“We’re well on our way to opening (our first) store,” Lowe said earlier this week. “I can’t even believe it.”
Now a budding entrepreneur, his origins as an outdoor-loving Sheridan kid helped set the stage for his recent success.
A 2000 graduate of SHS, Lowe spent several years serving around the world in the US Navy. While stationed in Tokyo, he one day happened across a coffee shop that took both the brewing and retail processes to a level that far surpassed anything to which he had previously been exposed.
Whole beans were accompanied by detailed information about the product’s origins, and when it came time to order, the coffee was roasted on site, making for a final product unlike anything he’d ever tasted.
Sheridan High School graduate and current Babson College MBA candidate Alex Lowe, center, poses with teammates James Gutierrez, left, and Elvis Lieban at the Edens Retail Conference in New York City earlier this month.
“I’ll never forget the taste of that coffee,” he said.
Several years later as a master’s in business administration candidate at Babson, the memory of that experience continued to linger in his mind. It seemed serendipitous then when the national real estate development firm Edens came to Babson last fall to announce a retail competition that would allow students an opportunity to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life.
In a business world that is increasingly focused on technological innovations, the retail-focused competition seemed a perfect fit for Lowe’s coffee concept.
“Most competitions are for all business (concepts) so if you have a retail idea it gets lost in a sea of tech start-ups,” he said.
Inspired to enter, he put together a team and got to work.
“We put up a whiteboard in the living room and just started designing it,” he said.
The trio put together a detailed business plan and worked on their presentation skills before making waves at the local, regional and national levels of the competition.
Along the way, they competed against top teams from several Ivy League schools and still managed to impress the judges with their thorough business plan and clear presentation.
For his part, Lowe said the group’s ability to explain their concept to the judges was a key factor in putting them over the top.
“You can have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t get it across it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Earlier this month at the Edens retail conference in New York City, Lowe and his team were informed they had been selected alongside another team to receive the grand prize of several thousand dollars in start-up capital and a mentorship with the CEO of a national coffee chain.
Now, the group is finalizing plans to open their first store in San Francisco, a market Lowe said is extremely promising for a craft coffee start-up.
From there, Lowe hopes to continue expanding and building on the company’s humble beginnings.
Despite all his success, he still points back to Sheridan as having been instrumental in his personal and professional development. Specifically, he cites local real estate developer and family connection Paul Del Rossi as having helped shape the person he’s become.
Del Rossi, meanwhile, foresees great things for both Lowe and his company in the years to come.
“This guy is someone that Sheridan will be very proud of,” he said. “He’s a real entrepreneur.”