For two members of Hiram College’s Class of 2014, the end of their undergraduate career doesn’t mean the end for the business they developed as students.
Forrest Reed, of Seven Hills, founded his business R & R Specialty Foods as a sophomore at Hiram College. The company sells a versatile cooking sauce called 7th Symphony, based off his great-grandmother’s recipe. He quickly brought on classmate Mike Gatta, of McDonald, to develop marketing and outreach for the company.
Through connections with Hiram College’s Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship and their own hard work, the duo managed to get their product on the shelves at 18 different locations, all while going to school full time.
Now, they will be trading studying and class projects for 40-hour workweeks, but they have big plans for their business.
“It’s a risk,” Reed admits, “but I was all in from the beginning. I want to see it through until we’ve pursued every opportunity possible, and I believe we’ll come up on top.”
Both have chosen full-time jobs that will allow them to remain dedicated to R & R Specialty Foods. Reed, who earned a degree in accounting and financial management, will be working as a co-owner of a Guy’s Pizza franchise in the Cleveland area. He has been given the go-ahead to begin incorporating 7th Symphony sauce into the menu at his location. Gatta, who earned a communication degree, will be working as a recruiter at TEKsystems in Columbus, a location he chose so that he can develop the brand’s presence in Central Ohio.
“The reason I decided to work at Guy’s Pizza is because the founders and business owners are open to new ideas,” Reed said. “I’m going to start by incorporating the sauce into my shop, and if it does well, it will be incorporated into the other ones. It’s possible that something could happen very quickly.”
He plans to visit Gatta frequently in Columbus, where they will lead demos and work on getting their product into even more locations.
They believe they’re about five years away from turning their passion into a full-time job, but in the meantime, their experience running a business as students will help them as they begin their professional careers.
“We’ve been able to get our foot in the door,” Reed said. “We’ve made so many connections and met some big people in the industry. It’s going to help us for the rest of our working lives, I believe.”
Even though they will be living two hours away from each other, Gatta and Reed plan to touch base daily about their business. Short-term goals include meeting with potential investors competing in Entrovation’s “Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year” Awards in Beachwood on May 28, 2014.
They attribute much of their success so far to the well-rounded and interdisciplinary education they received at Hiram College. And long-term, they hope to share their success with future generations of Hiram College students.
“I want to become so well known, that we get Hiram’s name out there,” Gatta said. “I want to be a success story that we can come back and tell future students about.”
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