November 5, 2014
By Mike Killeen
There's one nasty word entrepreneurs don't ever want to say.
The word? No. As in, "No, the product is not available for sale." Or, "No, the funds aren't available to do that."
But in a few weeks, Saint John's University junior — and entrepreneur — Ian Scherber will be able to say "yes" — as in "Yes, the product is available for sale."
Scherber, working with a team of current and graduated students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University with the Entrepreneur Scholars program, has created Neverest Outfitters.
He spent the summer working with CSB junior and lead product designer Mary Rumpca and others to develop prototypes for Neverest Outfitters' product line - backpacks, messenger bags, growler carriers, a tote, a bracelet and a T-shirt.
Neverest Outfitters raised $13,360 through a Kickstarter campaign, which allowed Scherber to take his product line to a company in Battle Lake, Minnesota, for manufacturing. They will start selling items online Nov. 20.
"We've been holding out for six months now," Scherber said. "People have been knocking at the door (wanting to buy the products), but we've been saying 'Nope, nope, nope.' "
The rest of his team currently includes CSB juniors Sydney Bailey (product designer) and Rachel Raden (marketing analyst); CSB sophomore Maggie Bernetich (media coordinator); SJU senior Connor Beck (content writer); SJU juniors Michael Seehusen (accounting), Michael Fadden (marketing analyst), Zachary Hnath (financial analyst), Jacob Harmon (marketing analyst) and Jacob Senta (executive assistant); SJU sophomore John Wagner (marketing analyst); and three SJU graduates — Per Lundmark '14 (sustainability coordinator), Lukas Inviess '12 (CFO) and Levi Lowell '09 (creative art director).
Scherber is a graduate of Proctor (Minnesota) High School. During his high school days, he started a T-shirt company that ended up generating some $60,000 of revenue (he also served as chief operating manager for T-Spot, a student-started and operated screen printing business at CSB and SJU, but is no longer affiliated with T-Spot). Scherber also had a desire to design and build items on his own.
"I'm from the Duluth area, and I've always loved the outdoors and been involved in the outdoors," Scherber said. "I kept saying I could do this. I want to do this. I have a passion for designing things and creating things. I figured it would be really cool if I could do this on my own. Once I came to CSB and SJU and got involved in the entrepreneurship program and was accepted as an Entrepreneur Scholar, I was like, 'Let's do it. It's my dream. I want to make it happen.'
"That's how I got hooked up, from making stuff in Duluth through high school, to liking the outdoors and then just wanting to do that," Scherber said.
"Ian has had this dream for a while now, making his own line of clothing and accessories," said Terri Barreiro, who retired as director of the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship June 30 but helped Scherber with his start-up plans during the 2013-14 academic year. "He has recruited talented people to join him on his team and their products are unique and inspired."
Scherber said Neverest Outfitters is run with a triple bottom line, meaning that every decision must take into account its impact on people, the planet and profit. Neverest Outfitters is using holistically-produced materials that will be made-in-Minnesota.
"All of our leather is actually donated to us by Leatherworks Minnesota," Scherber said. "We contacted the two owners of the company early just asking them how to work with leather. They were very kind and said, 'Hey, we'll teach you guys how to work with leather and you can have all our scraps.
"What that really helped us do is to decide to make limited run collections, and kind of played into the story of how we can do this in a sustainable way. By using materials that otherwise would be thrown away, and that really helped us build that image."
"He has a talent for finding new ways to reuse cloth and leather," Barreiro said of Scherber.
He's also hoping to tap the market at CSB and SJU, particularly with the sale of backpacks.
"It was really based on students at CSB and SJU needing a backpack every year. I thought it was a great little market we could hit," Scherber said.
He also credits Entrepreneur Scholars for getting his business off the ground, calling it "an unbelievable program" offered to students at CSB and SJU.
"I've gotten a lot of support. I couldn't have done it without the (program). It helps you get set up for success, and really guides you in the right direction," Scherber said.