It’s not every day that a class project turns into a local business sensation – a business that’s even attracted the attention of a MLB player.
For five recent Weatherhead School of Management graduates, however, their passion project evolved into an apparel business that has been in business since they completed the course in 2018.
In the spring semester of their final year as students in Weatherhead School of Management’s MBA program. Brian Tighe, Drew Meyer, Rick Ahir, Hunter Hoge and Cori Finefrock joined together as a group in the AMES Business Model class with Assistant Professor Michael Goldberg and Adjunct Professor Brandon Cornuke. The course is an experiential capstone course built around the challenge of developing business models within and outside of companies or organizations.
The project objective was simple: start your own business.
Some of the group members identified as passionate fishermen who grew up in the fishing community in Cleveland, Ohio. This hobby sparked the idea for their business and a way of giving back to this community through conservation funding.
“Growing up here, we knew that Cleveland has a vibrant community of fisherman, but no true brand for them,” Tighe said. “We saw an opportunity to build a brand for this community, but it wasn’t until we reached out to them directly that we realized there was a true need and business opportunity here.”
From that,Cleveland Fishing Co. was born.
Tighe says that the group learned several valuable concepts inside the classroom, like product research and identifying audience needs, that he believes set their business up for success.
“Our education from Weatherhead gave us the confidence and know-how to pursue this project further because we understood that we were bringing real value to the market,” he said.
The company started off with just hats and t-shirts. Now, they offer performance gear, hoodies, long sleeve shirts, face shields, stickers, Koozies and even coffee.
“We are constantly listening to our customers and will expand our product lines to make sure they are comfortable on and off the water,” Tighe said.
With their love of the sport also came a desire to give back. As students in Chris Laszlo’s sustainability class, the group learned the importance and approach of using business for good. A percentage of the businesses’ gross profit goes toward local conservation efforts, as the business has partnered with the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund which helps to stock fish in waters, restore habitats and educate the future generation of fishermen.
What’s next for the company?
“We are spreading the word organically by working with the local fishing groups in town, selling at craft shows and helping with river cleanups,” he said.
Tighe says he hopes to continue growing the brand here in Cleveland and connecting with the fishing community. He has even joined forces with Tyler Naquin, Cleveland Indians Outfielder and avid outdoorsman, who helped broadcast the brand to his nearly 54,000 Instagram followers.
Learn more about Cleveland Fishing Co.
Learn more about Weatherhead's MBA program.