If you're looking to shell out a little cash for a new polo shirt, you don't have to look any farther than Bowdoin: Since 2005, a little red lobster has begun to replace the traditional Polo horse and Lacoste alligator logos all over Maine and beyond.
They may be younger than the average businessmen, but last spring Scott Caras '08, Ted Upton '07, and Justin Unger, of Babson College, started a company and developed a line of products that are uniquely Maine oriented.
Before they even decided what product they would sell, the young entrepreneurs chose their logo, a red Maine lobster, and name, Cape Catch. They knew that it would be hard to make a popular product without a catchy name and logo. They also wanted to choose something as homage to Maine and particularly, the Maine coast. So, they settled on Cape Catch, partially in reference to their hometown, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and the Maine fishing industry.
"It is not just some random name," Upton said. "It incorporates a lot of things about our company."
After the establishment of the name and logo and a couple weeks of brainstorming, the men decided that they should sell polo shirts. They chose this item because they recognized its versatility?it can be worn by men or women at casual or more formal events.
Shortly after starting the company, the men running Cape Catch received a grant from Libra Foundations Future Fund. The grant is given to Mainers between 18 and 25 years old as an incentive for young entrepreneurs in the state to stay in Maine.
"A lot [of people who grow up in Maine] find they need to go to Boston or New York," Upton said. But, with the grant money in their pockets, the men could really get things rolling at a relatively low risk, right out of Cape Elizabeth.
But, as summer wound down, Caras, Upton, and Unger had to face the inevitable split. Caras returned to Bowdoin, Unger returned to Babson, and Upton headed half way around the world to spend the semester in Australia.
"We're not always in the same place at the same time," Upton said. Last semester, the co-owners had to figure out how to run the company from three different places, dividing up work into different categories that they could each manage.
When Upton returned from Australia for the spring semester, he said he noticed "a sincere interest in [the] company."
Upton and Caras agreed that people seem to really enjoy their product, and that they see people almost every day now sporting a Cape Catch product.
Caras added, "People come up to us that we don't even know and ask, 'Are you the Cape Catch guys? Where can I get a cap?'"
Although the company began by making most sales through word of mouth and their web site (www.capecatch.com), they now also sell their products at Ann Veronica, which Caras described as "a high-end, crafty boutique in South Portland."
This winter, the men added the "Classic Cap" and "Book & Boat Tote" to the Cape Catch product line, and they have plans to continue expanding.
"Going into this, I didn't know how much of a learning experience this would be," Upton said. One thing, in particular, that the men have learned about is taxes. They said that they spent about a week over winter break filing taxes for Cape Catch.
"Not a lot of small business owners file their own taxes," Caras said, "But, it was a great way to learn about our business."
As for their personal future plans, Upton aspires to go to law school, but he believes that there is a lot of overlap between business and law. On the other hand, Caras said that he is fascinated by the business world, and thinks that going into business may be a possibility in his future.
So far, business is going swimmingly for Cape Catch, and the owners have plans to run it for as long as they can.
Upton said that he had expected some people not to take their company seriously because of their age, but he added, "Because we are so young, it is a pretty fascinating story that we've been so successful."